Supreme Court Will Revisit Exercise of Religion

Supreme Court Will Revisit Exercise of Religion
Posted by CN Staff on April 18, 2005 at 16:28:13 PT
By Warren Richey, Staff Writer of The CSM
Source: Christian Science Monitor
Washington -- In 1990, the US Supreme Court shook the foundations of religious liberty in America.Five justices declared in a landmark decision that there is no fundamental right under the First Amendment's free exercise clause to a religious exemption from any law that applies to everyone in society, no matter how oppressive that law might be to a particular religious faith.
The only recourse for religions affected by a neutral, generally applicable law is to lobby lawmakers to make an exception, the high court said. But there is no constitutional right to an exception.The ruling alarmed many minority religious sects in the US whose chosen methods of worship are frequently misunderstood and sometimes ridiculed by society. Often they lack the political clout needed to protect their faiths through legislation.In light of these concerns, Congress responded to the ruling by passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. It orders judges to conduct a rigorous case-by-case examination of any law that clashes with religious freedoms.Now, 15 years after its landmark ruling, the US Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case examining whether religious rights granted by statute under RFRA may trump the nation's drug laws in the same way constitutional protections might have protected religious groups prior to the 1990 ruling. At issue is the sacramental use of a tea-like mixture (which is allegedly hallucinogenic) during worship ceremonies by American adherents of a Brazilian religious sect called O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal (UDV).The case pits the nation's war on drugs against the scope of religious freedom in the US. More specifically, it pits the federal drug law, the Controlled Substances Act, against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Bush administration, which urged the high court to take up the case to reverse a series of lower court rulings siding with the religious group, says the drug laws must be enforced regardless of religious requests for accommodation.Acting Solicitor General Paul Clement says earlier rulings by a federal judge and the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals will undermine the government's ability to effectively battle drug abuse and drug trafficking. He says no other court has ever ordered the government to permit a religious exemption to the Controlled Substances Act. Others counter that in passing RFRA, Congress established the preservation of religious liberty as a top priority, saying that the new religious freedom law applies to all laws.In a friend of the court brief, Gregory Baylor of the Christian Legal Society says efforts to outlaw sacramental tea is "tantamount to banning the wine served at a Roman Catholic mass."Others say RFRA violates the separation of powers by forcing judges to assume the role of lawmakers tasked to amend the nation's drug laws on a case-by-case basis.The tea, called hoasca, is made from two plants that grow in the Amazon rain forest. One of the plants contains a hallucinogen outlawed under the federal Controlled Substances Act.Founded in Brazil in 1961, the UDV has 8,000 followers worldwide, with some 140 in the US. The UDV combines Christian teachings with religious beliefs native to Brazil.Consumption of hoasca is central to UDV worship services, the group's lawyers say. It is considered sacred and drinking it is viewed as a way for believers to connect with God, they say. Although it has been scientifically classified as a hallucinogen, UDV lawyers say consumption of hoasca during tightly controlled religious services does not result in hallucinations for participants.The US government takes a different view. They say hoasca is an illegal hallucinogen banned in US law and through an international treaty. If Congress intended there to be religious exemptions for banned drugs, it would have said so, government lawyers say. The courts have repeatedly upheld the Controlled Substances Act against various groups claiming a religious right to smoke marijuana.The case stems from the interception in 1999 by US Customs agents of a shipment of hoasca on its way from Brazil to the US. The shipments were labeled "herbal tea extract," but they tested positive for DMT, a hallucinogen.Federal agents raided the New Mexico home of the leader of the US branch of UDV, Jeffrey Bronfman, and confiscated 30 gallons of hoasca.The group fought back with a lawsuit charging that the government was violating the UDV members' constitutional right to freely practice their religion. They also sued under the 1993 law, RFRA.Based on the 1990 Supreme Court ruling, their constitutional case was thrown out. But both a federal judge and the 10th Circuit have sided with the religious group in their RFRA case.Although the litigation is only in the preliminary stages, if upheld the earlier rulings strongly suggest the group would win its case for an exemption, legal analysts say.A victory for UDV would not invalidate the nation's drug laws every time a religious group seeks an exemption. But it might in some cases.Under RFRA, unless the government can demonstrate a compelling interest that requires the repression of a particular religious act and can show that it is using the least restrictive means, the government must permit a religious exemption."In this case the government is taking the position that they shouldn't have to put on any evidence because Congress found in general that anything that is listed on the schedule of controlled substances is dangerous," says John Boyd, one of two Albuquerque lawyers representing UDV."If the government prevails in their position, then RFRA will have been rendered meaningless in a stroke," Mr. Boyd says.Complete Title: Supreme Court Will Revisit Issue of Free Exercise of ReligionSource: Christian Science Monitor (US)Author: Warren Richey, Staff Writer of The CSMPublished:  April 19, 2005 Edition Copyright: 2005 The Christian Science Publishing SocietyContact: oped csps.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:ACLU Allows Church To Use Hallucinogenic Tea High - Reason Magazine
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Comment #17 posted by FoM on April 22, 2005 at 11:28:39 PT
Related Article from
Tea Break Should drug laws make exceptions for spiritual highs?Jacob SullumApril 22, 2005 Never mind the vomiting. For members of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal, drinking ayahuasca, a foul-tasting psychedelic tea brewed from two Amazonian plants, involves four hours of recitation, chanting, questions and answers, and religious instruction.Complete Article:
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Comment #16 posted by afterburner on April 20, 2005 at 10:19:12 PT
rein, not reign
Will the US Supreme Court *rein* in the federal overreach that attempts to nullify medical states rights?
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Comment #15 posted by afterburner on April 20, 2005 at 07:04:32 PT
Internal repression, Centralized power, Weak media
"The pot calling the kettle black"?:Apr. 20, 2005. 01:00 AM. 
Trends in Russia `worrying' to Rice.
Top Bush official says Putin moves hinder democracy Centralized power, weakened media
raise U.S. concern.
SPECIAL TO THE STAR{Excerpts} with comments:{In his inaugural address this year, U.S. President George W. Bush pledged to confront "every ruler and every nation" about internal repression, but Bush and his aides generally have publicly muted those concerns regarding Russia.}Will Bush confront himself about his own continued internal repression of medical, spiritual, and social cannabis citizens?{"The centralization of state power in the presidency at the expense of countervailing institutions like (parliament) or an independent judiciary is clearly very worrying," Rice said. "The absence of an independent media on the electronic side is clearly very worrying."}Many Americans have these same worries about the USA as "activist" judges are censured by the executive branch and Congress is badgered into approving unknown restrictions to rights and freedoms in voting in the USA Patriot Act. Independent media are American fiction as the mass media are corporate-controlled in the US, spouting undigested government propaganda much of the time; only the Internet give us the "Freedom of the Press" that the Constitution guarantees to Americans. Will the US Supreme Court reign in the federal overreach that attempts to nullify medical states rights?
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Comment #14 posted by jose melendez on April 20, 2005 at 06:26:21 PT
lava lamps, pot: entertainment science commerce
(posted on the wrong thread earlier, at thread20542.shtml#8) As with most products of prohibition, a commercial that makes fun of kids looking at a lava lamp will likely have the unintended consequence of demonstrating yet another positive effect of cannabis use: introspection leading to inspiration and discovery:, lava lamps are an interesting scientific demonstration of specific gravity, heat and density:, the lava lamp business story is a classic example of success through perseverance with a great yet seemingly impossible goal: said, and similarly to cannabis, it's probably a bit dangerous to ingest the product after it's temperature exceeds a certain point: - - -Today's tip: Grin. It's good for you, and others! Mothers and others did peacefully protest alcohol prohibition in the streets:
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Comment #13 posted by Greenjoy on April 19, 2005 at 21:48:09 PT
Dyin Ain't Much Of A Livin...Boahh.
 Quite.----- I wonder if anyone protested the prohibition of alcohol. Marching in the streets etc. I actually don't know. The protest was subversive and overwhelming I think. Hello Overwhelm Sam. I like your angle. I suppose the more angles the better! (Good that there are no crackheads preparing to march on Washington...I hope.) For every 300 people that light up in the park, at the courthouse, the government can run another one of those antidrug commercials of somebody staring at a lava lamp in their basement and continue to brainwash 300 million. Man, I hate that commercial! The poor kid is prolly just too full of cheez doodles, growth hormones and GMO's. Way too many people will still believe what they are told over and over again. Can't we get our own dismisinformation commercial? Cannabis...the anti-intolerance. 
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Comment #12 posted by Toker00 on April 19, 2005 at 16:49:54 PT
We have to be daring.
It's going to take the same things it took to get the civil rights movement, the women's movement, and any other kind of human rights movement going. Lot's of participation. Lot's of walking in the streets and shouting out the injustices, just like we type them here. Not hundreds of people, but thousands. There is no other way. Taking up arms is futile and fatal. Laaaaassssst resort. But daring isn't that scary, and not fatal. March. March. March. On. On. On. Washington. Washington. Washington. Dare to demonstrate your rights and will to protect them. Dare the Government!Peace. Legalize, then Revolutionize! (medicine)(energy)(nutrition) 
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Comment #11 posted by Greenjoy on April 19, 2005 at 10:40:26 PT
Freedom of my religion ...not yours.
 Its not likely that cannabis users...even those that have found a path to God by means of it, are going to go to Walmart and gun up, form ranks, and march on capitol hill. That kind of zealotry is for the big 3 religions. Foaming at the mouth, stamping your foot certainty that your path to God is the only way IS THE PROBLEM. I hope the court stands its ground. 
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Comment #10 posted by unkat27 on April 19, 2005 at 07:34:48 PT
Revised Con. Protects Big Pigs not People
This is such BS! What ever happened to the Constitution that was created to protect the people from oppression? The vampires and vultures have flushed it down the toilet. Now they use the revised version of the Constitution to protect themselves, the vampires and vultures of big corporations, from losing profit gained from the oppressive suffrage and destruction of common people's lives. It's all about money and profit. They don't give a damn about people, unless they are close family. I don't like suggesting this, but sometimes I think, if the original founders were here today, they'd encourage us to take up arms and fight the scumbags that have hijacked the US government. Some things are worth fighting for and dying for, and the big pigs are sitting back and laughing all the way to the bank every time we back down from a fight, thinking to themselves, 'well, if they won't take up arms and fight for it, then it must not be that important.' I hope to God I'm wrong, but every season that goes by with these vampires and vultures ruling the world makes me think I'm getting closer to the truth.
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Comment #9 posted by global_warming on April 19, 2005 at 03:07:40 PT
What's Next? -Incense
Incense(Lat. thus, Gr. thumiama), an aromatic substance which is obtained from certain resinous trees and largely employed for purposes of religious worship. The word is also used to signify the smoke or perfume arising from incense when burned.NATUREIn ancient times incense was furnished by two trees, viz. the Boswellia sacra of Arabia Felix, and the Boswellia papyrifera of India, both of which belong to the Terebinthian family. Mention is made of it in Num., vii, 14; Deut., xxxiii, 10, etc. It was procured from the bark much as gum is obtained at present. To enhance the fragrance and produce a thicker smoke various foreign elements were added (cf. Josephus, "Bella Jud.", V, 5). These ingredients generally numbered four, but sometimes as many as thirteen, and the task of blending them in due proportion was assigned under the Old-Law ordinances to particular families (Cant., iii, 6).USEThe use of incense was very common. It was employed for profane purposes as an antidote to the lassitude caused by very great heat, as perfumes are now used. Mention of its introduction into pagan worship is made by classical writers (cf. Ovid, "Metamorph.", VI, 14, Virgil, "AEneid", I, 146). Herodotus testifies to its use among the Assyrians and Babylonians, while on Egyptian monumental tablets kings are represented swinging censers. Into the Jewish ritual it entered very extensively, being used especially in connexion with the eucharistic offerings of oil, fruits, and wine, or the unbloody sacrifices (Leviticus, vi, 15). By the command of God Moses built an altar of incense (cf. Ex.. xxx), on which the sweetest spices and gums were burned, and to a special branch of the Levitical tribe was entrusted the office of daily renewal (I Par., ix, 29)...-----------------
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Comment #8 posted by stoner spirit on April 19, 2005 at 02:39:51 PT:
Religious Freedom?
What is dangerous to the publick, is the government. The government has lots of power, unfortunatly, and our rights are being chipped away. If we, the people don't wake up, then soon enough its going to be us, the government. I don't want to hear this, "You don't have any rights any more, they are for us, the government,", I hope it doesn't happen. It might be abit far-fetched, but as always, there are many possibilities.
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Comment #7 posted by OverwhelmSam on April 19, 2005 at 02:27:53 PT
An Opportunity To Stop The Insanity
The Supreme Court has an opportunity to put an end to the government's insane war against it's citizens, who do nothing more than opt to use drugs recreationally in the privacy of their homes. With the stroke of a pen, it could be over in an instant. I pray that the Justices will have the wisdom and moral courage to put an end to the government's cruel and unusual punishment of otherwise peaceful and innocent Americans.Overwhelm Uncle Sam
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on April 18, 2005 at 21:40:51 PT
Freedom To Believe
When I think of freedom of religion being taken away it really bothers me. Religion is part of the world and we are who we are because of different religions over the recorded history of man. We have a body and a spirit I believe. If we never tend to the spirit side of ourselves we miss an important part of life's journey. No person or religion should be denied the right to practice it's customs. I don't believe in rituals that would hurt another person. If a practice was for spiritual enlightenment then it should always be allowed in my opinion. That special freedom is important. 
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Comment #5 posted by Patrick on April 18, 2005 at 20:52:58 PT
I especially like this little tidbit....
The Bush administration, which urged the high court to take up the case to reverse a series of lower court rulings siding with the religious group, says the drug laws must be enforced regardless of religious requests for accommodation.You betcha! The draconian drug laws of this nation are now more important than the freedom of religion granted in the first amendment to our constitution. What's next thought laws?
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 18, 2005 at 20:17:15 PT
Related Article from The New York Times
Supreme Court to Hear Case of Dispute Over Religious Group's Use of Banned DrugBy Linda Greenhouse April 19, 2005WASHINGTON, April 18 - The Supreme Court added an important new religion case to its docket on Monday, agreeing to decide whether the government can ban the importation of a hallucinogenic tea that is central to the religious rituals of a small Brazil-based church.The case raises the broader question of how the court will interpret, in the context of an illegal drug, a law that ordinarily requires the federal government to refrain to the maximum extent possible from interfering with religious practices. The tea, known as hoasca, is made from plants that grow in the Amazon region and that produce a chemical listed by both the federal government and an international narcotics trafficking treaty as a controlled substance. The chemical, dimethyltryptamine, usually known as DMT, can also be produced in a laboratory, but followers of the Uniao Do Vegetal religion use only the naturally occurring version, which does not grow in the United States.The case is an appeal by the Bush administration of a federal court injunction won by the 130 members of the church's American branch, who brought a lawsuit five years ago to prohibit the government from invoking the Controlled Substances Act to block the importation of their tea and from seizing the sacred drink. The church, which combines elements of Christianity and indigenous Brazilian religion, opened its American branch in Santa Fe, N.M., in 1993.The Federal District Court in Albuquerque, ruling before trial, issued a preliminary injunction against the government. The order was subsequently affirmed by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, and last November was affirmed again by the full appeals court by a vote of 8 to 5.A trial has still not taken place, a fact that would ordinarily pose an obstacle to Supreme Court review. In fact, on Dec. 10 of last year, the justices denied the administration's request for a stay of the Court of Appeals order until the solicitor general's office could prepare a formal petition for Supreme Court review. The denial of a request for a stay in those circumstances is usually a strong signal that the Supreme Court will not consider the eventual appeal to be worthy of its attention.But in this case, Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal, No. 04-1084, the justices might have been persuaded, at least to let the administration have its say, by the strongly worded appeal filed by Paul D. Clement, the acting solicitor general.Denouncing the lower courts' handling of the case as "contrary to all precedent," Mr. Clement said that "no court has ever ordered the United States to permit a religious exemption to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act." Schedule I, on which DMT is listed, along with marijuana and other illicit drugs, is reserved for substances that the government considers to be particularly unsafe and to have no valid medical use.Both the executive branch and Congress, however, have granted a religious exemption for another Schedule I drug, peyote, which is used in religious ceremonies by the Native American Church.In an opinion concurring in the 10th Circuit's decision to uphold the injunction, Judge Michael W. McConnell cited the peyote exemption as evidence that the government was free to exercise discretion in such matters.Rejecting the argument that the district court should have deferred to the other two branches, Judge McConnell said: "If Congress or the executive branch had investigated the religious use of hoasca and had come to an informed conclusion that the health risks or possibility of diversion are sufficient to outweigh the free exercise concerns in this case, that conclusion would be entitled to great weight. But neither branch has done that."Instead, he said, the government had simply invoked the general principle that controlled substances are dangerous.Judge McConnell, a leading scholar on questions concerning the free exercise of religion before he became a judge, is widely seen as a possible Bush administration choice for a future Supreme Court vacancy.In its Supreme Court appeal, the administration is also arguing that the injunction is forcing the government to violate a 1971 international treaty, the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which obliges the 160 nations that have signed it to combat international traffic in illicit drugs. The question of whether the convention applies to hoasca is disputed, because Brazil, an original signatory to the treaty, has exempted the tea, and a recent appellate court ruling in France exempted its religious use.The lower courts based their ruling on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 federal law that forbids the government to enforce laws in a way that interferes with religious practice unless the interference is justified by a "compelling interest." The Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that Congress lacked authority to apply the law to the states, but the statute remains in effect for the federal government.The hoasca tea case, which will be argued in the fall, is the third case on the Supreme Court docket that deals with federal drug policy. The court is expected to announce a decision soon in a case argued in November on whether the federal government can block enforcement of California's medical marijuana initiative. And the court recently agreed to hear the Bush administration's challenge to the Oregon law permitting doctors to prescribe lethal doses of federally regulated drugs to assist terminally ill patients in committing suicide.In other action on Monday, the court accepted an appeal by the State of Georgia on a question of criminal law that has long created confusion among the state courts. The issue in Georgia v. Randolph, No. 04-1067, is whether the police can search a home without a warrant if one occupant gives consent but another occupant objects.In this case, a woman involved in a domestic dispute called the police to the home she shared with her husband. In the officers' presence, she complained that her husband was using cocaine and told the police that cocaine was in the house. The husband, Scott F. Randolph, refused to give consent for a search, but his wife led the officers to a bedroom where evidence of cocaine use was apparent.Mr. Randolph, challenging the legality of the search, won a ruling in the Georgia Supreme Court that since both partners had "common control and authority" over the premises, the consent of both was needed to conduct a search without a warrant.Copyright: 2005 New York Times
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Comment #3 posted by mayan on April 18, 2005 at 18:00:30 PT
"Dangerous" Religion
"In this case the government is taking the position that they shouldn't have to put on any evidence because Congress found in general that anything that is listed on the schedule of controlled substances is dangerous," says John Boyd, one of two Albuquerque lawyers representing UDV.Obviously, Congress is wrong. Cannabis is listed as Schedule one but it is NOT dangerous... unless a bale of it was to fall on one's head. It is the height of ignorance and arrogance to declare someone else's religious practices illegal. If we don't have religious freedom in this country then we have no freedom at all.THE WAY OUT IS THE WAY IN...Airport screeners no better than before 9/11, reports say: Tells 911 Rescue Worker To 'Shut Up' Over Finding
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Comment #2 posted by Taylor121 on April 18, 2005 at 17:24:16 PT
Sound Familiar
``There can be no doubt that the use of controlled substances and trafficking in those drugs, including DMT, creates social harms of the first magnitude,'' the Justice Department argued in its appeal. It is the language of the liars. There is not much in this society that does not have the potiential to create social harm. TV can create social harm. My computer can create social harm.I'm tired of the government's language of bs.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on April 18, 2005 at 17:04:00 PT
Related Article from Bloomberg
Church Use of Hallucinogen to Get U.S. Supreme Court Scrutiny April 18 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court, agreeing to take up a religious-freedom clash, will decide whether the Bush administration can block churches from using a hallucinogenic tea that the government says is illegal and dangerous. The justices today said they will review a federal appeals court decision letting a 130-member New Mexico branch of a Brazilian church import hoasca and use it in religious ceremonies. The court will hear arguments in Washington during its 2005-06 term, which starts in October. Religious groups say the Bush administration would trample spiritual freedom in its zeal to enforce federal drug laws. The Christian Legal Society, the National Association of Evangelicals and a top U.S. Presbyterian Church official opposed the government at the lower court level. The church, O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal, says its members are ``upright, law-abiding citizens who simply wish to practice the religion they believe brings them closer to God.'' The church's U.S. branch is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Hoasca contains dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, a hallucinogenic substance restricted under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. The Justice Department says that DMT can lead to depression, intense anxiety, disorientation and psychosis and that the drug is a particular danger to children who are church members. ``There can be no doubt that the use of controlled substances and trafficking in those drugs, including DMT, creates social harms of the first magnitude,'' the Justice Department argued in its appeal. Religious Freedoms The case will test the strength of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says the federal government can't restrict religious activities except to meet a compelling interest. The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, on an 8- 5 vote, concluded the Justice Department hadn't met its burden under that law. The appeals court upheld a temporary order barring the government from taking action against the church for its religious use of hoasca. The Supreme Court in December let the order stay in place during the government's appeal. The Justice Department says the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances bars importation of hoasca, the ingredients of which must be grown in Brazil. The U.S. is among more than 160 signatories to that treaty. UDV, as the church is known, disputes that contention, saying the treaty allows for exceptions based on domestic law. The church says Brazil, also among the signatories to the treaty, permits use of hoasca for religious purposes. Other Drugs UDV mixes Christian theology and indigenous South American beliefs. Founded in 1961 by a rubber tapper, the religion has 8,000 members in Brazil. The dispute between UDV and the government began in 1999, when U.S. Customs inspectors intercepted a shipment from Brazil of three drums that contained the drug. Authorities later searched the home of Jeffrey Bronfman, the head of the church in the U.S., and seized 30 gallons of hoasca. The Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that states invoking broad anti-drug laws could outlaw the religious use of peyote, another hallucinogen. That ruling limited the scope of the constitutional clause that protects the free exercise of religion, wiping out the ``compelling interest'' test the high court had previously applied. The 1990 ruling prompted Congress to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which sought to restore the earlier test. The Supreme Court in 1997 struck down the law as it applied to states, though not to the federal government. A number of courts have said the federal government may punish people who use marijuana in religious ceremonies. One of the 10th Circuit judges in the majority, Michael McConnell, wrote that hoasca was different because it ``is a relatively uncommon substance used almost exclusively as part of a well-defined religious service.'' The case is Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal, 04-1084.
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