Using RFRA to legalize marijuana use


We have seen how religious individuals and groups are using the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and state versions of it to try and avoid complying with laws that they feel infringe on their religious beliefs, such as issuing same-sex marriage licenses or providing contraceptive benefits in health insurance polices or selling various goods and services to the public.

Now the First Church of Cannabis has filed a lawsuit against the state of Indiana and city of Indianapolis under RFRA “challenging state laws on possession and use of marijuana as infringing upon religious beliefs.”

By filing its highly anticipated religious liberty claim Wednesday, the First Church of Cannabis has put the question everyone’s been wondering about in the hands of the court:

Is this a real religion?

And does it have a protected right to practice legitimate beliefs?

That is the core problem with the RFRA exemptions. You have to start getting into messy questions of what constitutes a real religion and what makes a genuine belief. After all, it could be reasonably argued that there can be only on true religion. Since they all make claims that are mutually exclusive, they cannot all be true. Or is it the case that believing in a false religion is acceptable as long as the belief is genuine, i.e., the poor saps are truly deluded?

I wrote last month how the founder of this church Bill Levin had earlier filed and obtained tax-exempt status for his church. He has now taken the next step with this lawsuit, seeing how far he can push the RFRA law.

Giving special deference and privileges to religious beliefs that enable people to exempt themselves from the laws that the rest of us must abide by invites this kind of endless litigation because of the difficulty of creating demarcation criteria that can distinguish religion from non-religion, not to mention the added complication of whether someone is a genuine believer or not.

Comments

  1. kyoseki says

    Note to self: Found the first church of speed in order to circumvent the vehicle code.

  2. says

    I’m still waiting for someone to establish the Church of Aphrodite or the Temple of Astarte and demand freedom to run a tax-free brothel, citing the millennia old tradition of temple prostitution.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    Or is it the case that believing in a false religion is acceptable as long as the belief is genuine, i.e., the poor saps are truly deluded?

    I would think this has to be the position, if you won’t allow one religion to be elevated above all the others. In other words, most of our neighbors are nuts at least one day per week.
    Judging by cable television, the true proportion seems to actually be closer to 4-7 days per week.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    #2:
    (sung to the tune of (Give Me That) Old Time Religion:

    Let us worship Aphrodite,
    she’s beautiful but flighty.
    She doesn’t wear a nightie,
    but she’s good enough for me!

    Joseph Campbell

  5. says

    I think this whole “Church of Cannabis” thing is great, if for no other reason than it goes to show just how ridiculous religion as a whole really is.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    moarscienceplz @ # 4 – Back before Greta Christina was assimilated into the relentless FreeThoughtBorg, she ran a contest of variations on that theme – check it out.

    Full disclosure: I entered a few ditties, and thought I had a chance at maybe a runner-up prize – but that was before (a similarly then-freelance) The Digital Cuttlefish weighed in and effortlessly stomped us all flat.

  7. says

    I wrote last month how the founder of this church Bill Levin had earlier filed and obtained tax-exempt status for his church.

    Smart opening move. Now, in his current law suit, he can cite the fact that the state has effectively already recognized his church as a legitimate religion.

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