Indiana’s controversial law, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, has indirectly paved the way for the First Church of Cannabis.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Last, month the aforementioned church based in Indianapolis, won the right to light up and spread their gospel, because they were awarded non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service.
One may ask themselves, how was this possible?
Well, that would be a very legitimate question.
The First Church of Cannabis, is deemed a charity because, “donors can deduct gifts made to the church on federal tax returns and when the cannabis congregation finds a location, it will be eligible for a property tax exemption – even though neither medical nor recreational marijuana is legal in the state of Indiana.”
The churches Facebook Page said: “What a GLORIOUS DAY it is folks… Absolutely BEAUTIFUL…HAPPY TUESDAY! Our NOT FOR PROFIT 501 C3 status came in today… WE ARE 100 % a LEGAL CHURCH… All say HALLELUJAH and SMILE REAL BIG!… We are OFFICIAL!”
“We don’t want to poison people. We want to see them healthy. And cannabis is the healthiest plant on earth,” church founder Bill Levin said in an interview with Yahoo News.
Levin, did protest against the RFRA.
“After Pence made the announcement that he would sign it in a private ceremony, I became born again,” Levin said.
The members of the church, referred to as “Cannabiterians,” believe in the message of a “Deity Dozen,” which is their version of the Ten Commandments:
- Don’t be an a**hole. Treat everyone with Love as an equal.
- The day starts with your smile every morning. When you get up, wear it first.
- Help others when you can. Not for money, but because it’s needed.
- Treat your body as a temple. Do not poison it with poor quality foods and sodas.
- Do not take advantage of people. Do not intentionally hurt anything.
- Never start a fight… only finish them.
- Grow food, raise animals get nature into your daily routine
- Do not be a “troll” on the Internet, respect others without name calling and being vulgarly aggressive.
- Spend at least 10 minutes a day just contemplating life in a quiet space.
- When you see a bully… stop them by any means possible. Protect those who cannot protect themselves.
- Laugh often, share humor. Have fun in life, be positive.
- Cannabis, “the Healing Plant” is our sacrament. It brings us closer to ourselves and others. It is our fountain of health, our love, curing us from illness and depression. We embrace it with our whole heart and spirit, individually and as a group.
“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.”
Levin went on to say, “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.”
While the halls of the congregation and stained glass windows are not fogged up with smoke yet, legally, the church could face challenges.
According to Daniel O. Conkle, professor of law at Indiana University, consequences are likely.
“Under RFRA, if charged with possession of an illegal substance, the church would have to demonstrate to a court of law that their marijuana use stems from a genuine religious belief, rather than a contrived excuse to get high.”
“I would say their ability to make that showing is probably pretty doubtful in this case,” Conkle told Yahoo News.
While I support industrial hemp and medicinal marijuana (see my articles at http://www.falseempowerment.wordpress.com, regarding those topics), even though the Cannabiterians may have found a loophole, it seems like just an excuse to smoke a blunt.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Alan Gordon 401-304-6020
New England Cannabis Anti-Discrimination Taskforce (NECAT)
Anne Armstrong 402-304-6543
The Healing Church
Police-Handling Guidelines Issued to Cannabis Congregation After Curious Questioning by City, Federal Authorities
(video links to police encounter in text below)
Anne Armstrong of The Healing Church (a cannabis using religious sect), is issuing guidelines to her congregation and for other “Cannabist” sects, after repeated encounters with police. Deaconess Armstrong conducted services this past Sunday May 17 2015 at the birthplace of U.S. religious freedom, Roger Williams National Memorial, but not without a hiccup. Federal and City of Providence Police officers were curious about the small service — just Armstrong and 4 men — because the congregation was smoking cannabis and receiving cannabis oil forehead anointing, which they say is commanded by God and Moses in the Book of Exodus. Armstrong’s church has a permit for over 100 people to pray and use religious cannabis next Saturday, May 23rd 2105, at 8:00 pm, but the group lacked a permit to pray in the park on the morning of Sunday 17th May, and a federal Park Ranger sought to intervene. The exchange went as follows [paraphrased]:
Park Ranger: “You may not break the Controlled Substances Act here.”
Armstrong: “We’re not — this cannabis is religious” [Armstrong hands Ranger her Ordination papers, showing that Armstrong has been clergy since 2002]
Park Ranger: “Your permit for that is not until next Saturday May 23rd.”
Armstrong: “We don’t need a permit to use cannabis in small groups. The Government lacks authority to issue or deny permits for Constitutionally-protected activity under Boardley v National Park Service (2010). Next week’s permit is so when more than 100 people smoke religious cannabis at once, the public’s use and enjoyment of the National Park is not impeded. But small groups gathering for Constitutionally-protected activity do not require permits.”
The congregation then smoked more religious cannabis for an hour, at which point Armstrong started towards the Park Service office to collect her Ordination papers. Then, City of Providence Police officers arrived, and put the Deaconess through the same drill (see linked video), before handing her the Ordination papers transferred to them by the Federal Ranger. Police can be clearly heard to say at 2:10 in the video that they have no problem with cannabis use on the permitted day. Armstrong can be heard (at 2:55-3:00 in the video) telling the officers she was about to drive home with the rest of the cannabis, and that they may inspect it if they wish. They decline.
Alan Gordon, Church Canon (Ecclesiastical law researcher) said that the federal and city governments were being “silly” when they tried to tell Armstrong the Church can’t smoke cannabis until next week’s permit. Gordon says both jurisdictions would have a hard time blocking any good-faith religious cannabis use in the future, given a legal test for that called the “compelling interest test”. According to Gordon, in order for the Government to burden someone’s religious practice, Government must first prove they have a compelling interest.
“Letting us smoke in public for an hour, then drive cannabis away with a prior religious cannabis convicted felon like me, without even a background ID check, shows that the United States and City of Providence governments do not consider cannabis prayer interference to be a compelling interest.
If other worshipers later got harassed, they could use this evidence of the harmlessness with which we prayed unmolested to undermine any Government claim of compelling interest,” says Gordon, who says both jurisdictions “finally acquiesced to the truth that religious cannabis use, undertaken in good faith, is better for people than using it in bad faith, and not worth suppressing any longer.”
Deaconess Armstrong seemed almost a little disappointed not to have been arrested, but, she says: “I can see why they would not want to make a test case of this at the birthplace of US religious freedom, but Armstrong and Gordon v National Park Service has a certain ring to it.”
Police-Handling Guidelines for The Healing Church
- If approached by police, do not run, hide, or hide sacred matter. Stand up straight and tall, and smile. Leave your hands where the police can see them. Always tell the Truth.
- If a police officer tells you your religious cannabis use is against the law, correct the officer by saying: “Not if it is sincerely religious, and this cannabis is religious matter”.
CAUTION: If you are not a sincere religious cannabis user, in good faith, do not expect to be taken seriously. Police officers get lied to all day long for a living, and they have pretty good bull-poop sniffers. If they know you’re lying, you may get arrested and hauled to court, where the sincerity of your religious belief is your burden to prove under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (State and Federal).
- If the officer tries to tell you that religious cannabis use may only be undertaken with a permit, tell him or her that the law specifically prohibits Government from requiring permits for Constitutionally-protected activity (see the case of Boardley v Park Service 2010), and that good-faith religious substance use is protected by an 8-0 unanimous Supreme Court decision (Attorney General v United Church of the Vegetable 2006).
- If any further difficulty ensues, then as soon as possible, contact Deaconess Anne Armstrong or Canon Alan Gordon for assistance. The police may not “substantially burden” your religious practice, and even questioning you for more than a moment might cross that line. Don’t wait if unsure — call for help.
About the Author
**This article was published on Activist Post.**
This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.