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 Wednesday, 22 December 2004
Wednesday, 22 December 2004 20:45:41 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

There's been a court case bubbling around for a while now, where a small, but valid religious group got in trouble with the federal government for using “special tea”.

It turns out that the courts sided more with the Constitution than with the anti-drug folks, so the government brought it before the Supreme Court. They decided not to hear the case, which is another way of saying that the original District Court ruling was correct. You can read more here.

This little religious group, who are nominally Christian, perform a highly un-Christian rite involving psychotropic drugs – tea containing a controlled substance. The really cool thing is that they were supported in their court case by a couple ultra-Christian evangelical groups.

Obviously it is in the best interest of all religious groups to keep the federal government out of church business. Nonetheless, for evangelical Christian groups to support a religion that obviously flies in the face of mainstream Christian values does make this a bit remarkable.

In the original decision, the court made the requirement:

The district court required the Government to prove sacramental hoasca consumption poses a serious health risk to Uniao do Vegetal members and, if sanctioned, would lead to significant diversion to non-religious use

In the appeal, the government argues that this is an "onerous burden" to which I say bah!

I totally agree with the requirement laid out by the court. If a substance is illegal for general use, then certainly we must enforce the law in that regard – outside the context of religious ceremonies.

And I agree that even within the context of religious ceremony, a truly dangerous substance with substantially harmful effects should not be allowed.

This is the same guideline by which we can and should force the use of life-saving medicine even when someone’s religion prohibits its use. A couple years ago there was a case where a fundamentalist Christian couple refused life-saving medical care for their child on religious grounds.

This is the exact flipside of the “serious health risk” issue around religious drug use. We shouldn’t allow the use of tangibly harmful drugs, nor should we allow the disuse of tangibly life-saving medicine.

Sometimes medical science simply must overrule religious dogma.

And sometimes it seems that evangelical Christian groups understand.

Comments [2] | | # 
Thursday, 23 December 2004 08:52:16 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
The Government concerns are valid in this case. What defines "serious" risk? What defines a "significant diversion to non-religious use"? Suppose someone makes a religion called "God's Crack" who smoke crack for their "religious" purposes. Technically, any crack smoked both during ceremonies and outside ceremonies could be considered religious use. This is all subjective nonsense and the people making the decisions about what constitutes “serious risk” and a "significant diversion to non-religious use" are generally other Christians. Religions should be allowed to conduct ceremonies as long as they are not breaking secular law. Period. The implication in this Court's decision is that you can do any drug you want as long as it is for religious purposes. Basically this ruling is an end run around the FDA.

Further, just because evangelical Christians sided with another religious group in this one case, in no way substantiates the claim that they do so as a regular course of action (e.g. “Under God” in the Pledge, Christmas as a Federal holiday).
Tuesday, 28 December 2004 15:39:26 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I can do one better than 'God's Crack', because it involves no hypotheticals at all. Think about snake handlers for a moment. These folks belong to a rather extreme version of a small offshoot of Christianity, and as you probably know 'handle' venemous snakes as a regular part of their religious services. Several of them die every year from poisoning by their snakes. If snake handling doesn't fit the definition a dangerous practice (or involving a dangerous substance, ie snake venom), I don't know what does. If you think that potentially dangerous substances should not be covered by law because of religious use, then you would logically have to be against this practice.
The Evil Cub
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