Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Supremes uphold entheogenic church

Earlier post here.

The Supreme Court has upheld the right of followers of Uniao do Vegetal (UDV), a religion born in Brazil that uses ayahuasca as its sacrament, to use ayahuasca in the United States.

The feds argued that preventing use of a "controlled substance" was more important than religious freedom, as codified in the Religious Freedom Act of 1993. (The Native American Church, which uses peyote sacramentally, was a major lobbyist for that act.)

The court ruled, however, that the federal govenment did not demonstrate a "compelling interest," in other words, a reason good enough to overrule the established principle of religious freedom. The feds had argued that there was no exception to the Controlled Substances Act, not for a single drop of ayahuasca tea.

As the court's opinion stated, "The Government's argument echoes the classic rejoinder of bureaucrats throughout history: If I make an exception for you, I'll have to make one for everybody, so no exceptions."

A digression. The copy editor working on my book wanted to change every use of "entheogen" to "hallucinogen" or "psychedelic." I am asking him to restore my original wording, for the same reason that prompted Jonathan Ott and others to coin the term. When you say "entheogen," you are saying that these substances can be used as religious sacrements, but when you say "hallucinogen," you are saying, in effect, that they produce only worthless hallucinations and are worthless, if not dangerous. "Psychedelic" started as a useful term, but in the 1965-1975 period it ended up being applied to music, fashion, automotive paint schemes, and so many things that it became useless in its original sense.

Can law reflect that distinction? Not with current "drug war" thinking.

(Hat tip to SCOTUS Blog.)

UPDATE: More comments and links at Get Religion.

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Anonymous qibitum said...

Another digression re your digression--the copy editor on my book was apparently okay with one contributor's use of the term "entheogen," but initially stuck with the mandate of the style-sheet that all abbreviations be spelled out. Said copy-editor relented when I pointed out the utter lack of clarity provided in spelling out the arcane formulae behind "MDMA" or worse "2-CB." Anyhow, as I'm sure you know, there are precedents to wave in front of your copy editor if you need them.

5:25 PM  
Blogger Loki said...

I am glad to see this decision. I have had the impression that many of our politicians were not very concerned about the separation of church and state. This decision has helped me to believe that the Supreme Court still believes the Constition is alive and well. After the emminent domain decision I had my doubts.


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5:44 PM  

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