Indiana’s ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ (RFRA) Has Hilariously Unintended Consequence

When Indiana lawmakers passed their state’s version of religious freedom, America foamed at the mouth in disposition toward it. Now, American’s can lean back and bask, for religious freedom in Indiana also means getting high.

The ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ (RFRA) may actually do something positive. Who would’ve thought?

Photo by Bokske -- Image via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Bokske — Image via Wikimedia Commons

On July 1, parishioners of the First Church of Cannabis, called “Cannabiterians,” will attend their first service. Over 700 have already paid for church membership: $50.40 for a year, $100.80 for two. Bill Levin, the man who established the church, has described the inaugural service. From Yahoo! News:

“‘We’re going to do all the good things that churches do. Celebrate life, love, compassion and good health,’ Levin said. ‘Everyone is going to leave in a happy, spiritual, healthy way.’

The opening ceremony will kick off with a young harmonica prodigy playing ‘Amazing Grace.’ Then the church’s music minister will lead the house band through three more songs with a bit of chatter in between each.

Next, Levin will speak for five minutes about each of the seven themes that the church holds dear: live, love, laugh, learn, create, grow and teach.

‘I will bring people up to testify on the podium of life about what they’ve learned about those subjects this week,’ he said. ‘It’s a completely interactive service.’

The congregation will rise in unison and recite the Deity Dozen before smoking cannabis together.

‘After the 12th pathway, we will light up and celebrate life and the birth of a great new religion with a party,’ he said.”

Despite Indiana’s RFRA, which prohibits the government from “substantially burdening” anyone’s right to freely practice their religion unless there is “compelling governmental interest” to do so, The Church of Cannabis may have to contend with legal challenges. Cannabis is still a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States, meaning it has no accepted medical value and is habit forming.

Even though the classification is bunk, it may still be enough for the Indiana government to intervene.

On the other hand, spiritual institutions receiving approval for using illicit substances in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment is not without precedent. The 1993 federal RFRA came into existence partially because of Native American religious practices, some of which involve the consumption of peyote, a psychedelic compound found in certain breeds of cactus. A branch of the Brazilian Uniao do Vegetal, based in New Mexico, successfully fought for its right to use a sacramental tea, ayahuasca, which contains dimethyltrypamine, another Schedule I controlled substance in the United States.

The First Church of Cannabis will hold its first service on July 1, 2015 at 12:01 pm. The location of the service has not yet been announced.

Between this and backlash strong enough to kill his presidential aspirations, I wonder if Mike Pence regrets the RFRA now?

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