You shouldn’t laugh, dears. No, really, you shouldn’t. Ohh, but how can you not?
For those of you who have been living in a box and are unaware of it, the state of Indiana in the good ol’ USA recently rushed through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a hateful piece of legislation which makes it legal for businesses to refuse service to gays (and one would imagine other LGBTQI people) on grounds of religious belief. The backlash from this legislated bigotry has been considerable from both LGBTQI and supportive cis/het people alike. Former Star Trek star George Takei, himself openly gay, is calling on people to boycott the entire state.
Now it seems however, that Indiana’s homophobic legislators may well have shot themselves in the foot. Indiana attorney and commentator, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, has pointed out that the wording of the kneejerk legislation would may well also protect those who smoke marijuana as part of their religious beliefs.
Shabazz has pointed out that owning and / or smoking marijuana remains illegal in Indiana, if a pot smoker can prove that they are performing a religious sacrament, then under the wording of the RFRA, their rights must be protected. “I would argue that under RFRA,” says Shabazz, “as long as you can show that reefer is part of your religious practices, you got a pretty good shot of getting off scot-free.”
RFRA supporters state the Bill, “only spells out a test as to whether a government mandate would unduly burden a person’s faith and the government has to articulate a compelling interest for that rule and how it would be carried out in the least restrictive manner,” Shabazz maintains this merely compounds problems; “So, with that said, what ‘compelling interest’ would the state of Indiana have to prohibit me from using marijuana as part of my religious practice?
Shabazz went on to point out that alcoholic wine is used in Christian sacraments and that marijuana is a far less dangerous drug than alcohol.
So, is this farcical? Not one bit of it, dears. On Thursday, 26 March 2014, the same day the Bill was passed, Bill Levin, founder of the First Church of Cannabis Inc, filed paperwork in Indianapolis to register his church as a non-profit, religious organisation. Referring (should that be reefering?) to followers as “cannataerians” on the group’s Facebook page, Levin stated that they seek “love, understanding and good health.” Colorado-based Green Faith Ministries, who use marijuana as part of their sacraments, have also reportedly voiced an interest in setting up a branch in Indiana.
And of course, these two are not alone. There are plenty other established religions which use marijuana as part of their belief systems. Rastafarianism regards marijuana as a sacred plant, to be used for the purposes of meditation and achieving heightened spiritual awareness (yes dear, been there, done that). The Hawaii-based THC Ministry, founded by Roger Christie of the Religion of Jesus Christ, considers cannabis sacramental for both spiritual and healing properties. They state that the “cultivation and enjoyment of cannabis sacrament is a fundamental human right provided by God and protected by the Constitution.” The California-based Church of Reality, founded on the principles that some of the best ideas come from smoking pot (truth), similarly maintain that smoking cannabis is a constitutional right in the USA. Should anyone doubt how serious the Church of Reality are, consider that the US Internal Revenue Service recognised them as a non-profit, tax-exempt church as far back as 2005.
Oh dear. It seems the bigots of Indiana may have bitten off more than they can chew. Before long the streets of Indianapolis and other cities may be full of dreamy-eyed people walking about in a beautiful haze – and the conservatives who made that possible won’t be able to do a damned thing about it.
Who knows, maybe that could be a good thing? If the overbearing homophobic bigots of Indiana inhale enough secondary smoke, it may just lead them to chill out a little, get those pokers out of their arses, and actually try being nice to people. If that happens, I’ll believe the age of miracles has not passed.
Of course, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz has pointed out that as the use and ownership of marijuana remains illegal in the state, a test case may well follow, and states “I want a front row seat at the trial that we all know is going to happen when all this goes down.”
Oh indeed, dears, so do I, and I’ll be watching out for developments. As any attempt to apply RFRA to the Christian faith alone would be wholly unconstitutional, then any test case under it can have only one of two outcomes; either those who smoke marijuana as a religious sacrament have their rights protected by law, or this odious piece of homophobic legislation will have to be scrapped altogether.