Within the state of Indiana, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” was enacted ostensibly as a means to allow for those individuals with “sincerely” held religious beliefs to deny services to those to whose practices they reject upon religious grounds. As has been covered sufficiently elsewhere, the suspected true motivation for this Indiana legislation was to allow for individuals to be free from legal culpability should they choose to discriminate against the gay, lesbian and/or transgender community.
For the purpose of this editorial, the topic at hand is not the merits or logic of this legislation, nor the worldwide condemnation such legislation has wrought to the reputation of the state of Indiana. Rather, it is the means by which an individual within Indianapolis has sought to turn the legislation into an opportunity to allow for protected drug use within his erected church and the anticipated law enforcement response that I believe to be forthcoming.
Within the context of utilizing legal arrests as a means by which to effectuate social change, I have formerly expressed the belief that irrespective of the legality or decriminalization of Marijuana in certain states, law enforcement leaders opposed to such measures will inevitably use drug enforcement laws to deter legal “objectionable” conduct without repercussion. It is within this context that I believe a prioritized law enforcement response will be left to target an Indianapolis legal issue that has become a political liability for the state.
An Indianapolis resident by the name of Bill Levin has presently been the beneficiary of worldwide press for his successful action to establish tax exempt status for his newly established, “Church of the Cannabis,” located within Indianapolis. It should be noted that this church in question has been established within a state that has neither legalized Marijuana usage, much less decriminalized it even for medical purposes.
As such, Levin’s first step in establishing legitimacy to the cause of free expression in the use of Marijuana has been to seek its use as a form of “sincere” religious observance within the confines of his church in a state that has completely outlawed the use of Marijuana.
By garnering an initial approval for tax exempt status for his, “church” from the IRS, it is Levin’s clever objective to provide a sufficient legal legitimacy to assert that his religious practices are “sincere” and should not be the target of Indiana governmental prosecution pursuant to the state’s Indiana’s Religious Restoration Act.
As a result, it is Levin’s aim to utilize the shield of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act to allow for the boundaries of his church to permit the use of Marijuana pursuant to his respective congregant’s religious fulfillment.
With the passage Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Levin’s ability to garner attention and legitimacy to his cause has been more successful than than would have otherwise been imagined prior to the act’s passage.
Governor Mike Pence has already had his presidential ambitions thwarted by stepping into the political quagmire of attempting to justify the purposes and motivations behind this law. Both he and other proponents of the law do not relish the thought of providing the media with more fodder with which to demonstrate the hypocrisy of those seeking to selectively suggest that this legislation should not apply to those such as Bill Levin’s church. A church that has presently been authorized by the IRS to receive tax exempt status as a legitimate religious church organization.
What are state political leaders objecting to Marijuana to do? I predict the same thing that is always done to address a recognized societal issue of which political leaders object; prioritize the arrest and prosecution of sanctioned societal activities as a means by which to further expedient political objectives.
Were I to be consulted by Mr Levin I would suggest that he not gloat in the aftermath of IRS recognition of his Church of the Cannabis. If his true aim is to allow for Marijuana to become a central tenant of his Church’s religious observance and practice, currying favor among self interested media reporters looking for a juicy story with which to antagonize Indiana’s legislative leaders may succeed in embarrassing Indiana legislators, but will increase the prospect of losing the viability of the church practices he seeks to further.
No one can predict the future course of conduct of either state political officials or federal authorities in regard to the extent to which a tacit approval is given to not criminalizing the activities of congregants using Marijuana from within the confines of the Church of Cannabis.
However, unless church congregants have either made arrangements to walk to and from this church or have secured transportation from individuals not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, I can almost assure patrons of such a church that they will soon become the target of dui enforcement in Indianapolis.
Further, criminal prosecution through the enforcement of Visiting or Maintaining a Common Nuisance laws are sure to be examined as additional punitive alternatives to discourage this church”s ability to secure congregants. Yet, to enforce such nuisance laws is to place more emphasis on the hypocrisy of selectively deciding which houses of worship are a nuisance and which are legitimate. A seeming contradictory purpose behind the Religious Restoration Act’s ill conceived purposes.
Lurking within the midst of church congregants and outside of any potential church service will be the opportunity for political leaders to prioritize dui law enforcement against those church congregants driving with Marijuana within their bloodstreams. In so doing, a convenient buffer between the aims of preserving the integrity of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and fulfilling the cause of public safety can be credibly established to deter the potential success of more Marijuana themed houses of legal worship to spread throughout the state of Indiana.
Time will tell the extent to which churches such as Bill Levin’s will prove successful within Indiana; a state that has outlawed the use of Marijuana yet become the self anointed leader in the pursuit of state sanctioned protection for all “sincere” avenues and actions of religious worship.
In the wake of present IRS endorsement legitimizing Levin’s Marijuana based church as tax exempt, unfolding events within Indiana may demonstrate the extent to which unsightly political annoyances can be tamed by tried and true law enforcement principals.