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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.

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