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Court Says Church Can Brew Hallucinogenic Tea

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) A church in Ashland, Ore., can import and brew a hallucinogenic tea for its religious services, under a federal court ruling issued March 19.
Judge Owen M. Panner issued a permanent injunction that bars the federal government from penalizing or prohibiting the Church of the Holy Light of the Queen from sacramental use of “Daime” tea.
The church, which blends Christian and Brazilian indigenous beliefs, uses tea brewed from the ayahuasca plant in their services. The tea contains trace amounts of the chemical dimethyltryptamine, or DMT.
According to the church’s lawsuit, the tea is the central ritual and sacrament of the religion where members believe “only by taking the tea can a church member have direct experience with Jesus Christ.”
The Ashland church filed its suit against the federal Department of Justice and Treasury Department in February arguing that the tea should be allowed under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Panner ruled that federal drug enforcement agencies are prevented from prosecuting the church for importing, possessing and distributing the tea and as long as they abide by the judge’s guidelines.
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • Henrietta22

    And what was the Judge’s guidelines? Did the Judge try it out to see how it made him feel? Does this brew mix with people’s other Rx they may be ingesting? Was a Pharmacist asked about interactions? How long does the hallucinogenic spell last? Will it be gone before they leave their Church in their car? Will it incite a let down followed by eratic moods later? Will children and teenagers be allowed to drink this? Religion keeps getting more questionable for other peoples well-being, it seems.

  • nnmns

    Wine makes you drunk, tea makes you high. Interesting how these drugs creep into people’s religious practices.
    Just out of curiosity, at what age can Catholic kids start drinking the communion wine/blood? Are they perhaps doing something that’s illegal in some states?

  • nnmns

    And in what states is it legal or illegal for anyone to drink human blood? Some might argue it’s not blood, it’s wine, but Catholic officials are enjoined to follow Catholic doctrine, so it would seem if drinking human blood is illegal there should be some prosecutions.

  • pagansister

    Yes, I’ve always had a problem with the wine being blood and the wafer a piece of a person. In the Methodist church, the grape juice and bread (or sometimes wafers)were a “representation” of Christ’s blood, and it wasn’t claimed to have been turned into real blood/body of Christ. But to each his/her own. Actually the tea might be tasty and the extra kick? ALMOST makes some churches attractive…to get a little “high”.
    The communion wine/blood at the church mass’s I attended while teaching in the RCC school, the wine/blood was only sipped by the priest, none given to the congregation. The wafers/body were given to the congregation. In the Methodist church I used to attend, grape juice was given out to all, in little tiny glass cups…as well as the wafers (or pieces of bread pulled off a loaf ) to all. I don’t know if all RCC churches do mass the same as the one I attended.

  • Your Name

    You bring up an interesting point, nnmns. Back in the day, when I was Catholic (guitar masses were still in vogue) no one partook of wine. Once in a great while, some hip priest would dip the host into the wine before distributing it (called “intincture,” if my drug-addled memory is to be trusted), but other wise the faithful went sans vin. I don’t know what standard procedure is for today’s communicants, but by guess is that young Catholics do take a sip before the age of 21.
    I’m all for drugs in a religious setting: the above mentioned tea, wine, ganja, soma, peyote, LSD (see: Timothy Leary). To quote one of our great philosophers: “A spooonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

  • jestrfyl

    If this church is like any other church from any other denomination, sect, or denomination there is no real danger from the drug’s effects. That is because every church so dilutes its coffee or tea or punch that there is almost no color, no flavor, and certainly no “buzz”. It is a typical cost saving measure that guarantees no one will ingest anything that poses any sort of risk.
    I have never been a fan of “transubstantiation”. It is but one more attempt to take literally what was surely meant metaphorically and poetically. And yet, some groups are so wedded to the concept that their missionaries were killed by the very people they were hoping to convert because the missionaries were perceived as cannibals (though it is likely this is one of those marvelous anecdotal stories).

  • Victor

    Don’t understand how they can be allowed to break the law because they are a church. Isn’t that special treatment in violation of the establishment clause?

  • cknuck

    Such a controlled substance is always a potential threat when in the hands of civilians and sometimes officials.

  • jestrfyl

    You raise an interesting question. Other rulings have also allowed special, even exceptional rites to be conducted by religious groups. My sense of the “establishment clause” is that it is a metaphoric one way valve that allows religious groups a great deal of space to bubble and boil without the government seeping in. It prevents the government from establishing a religion while at the same time protecting minority religious expression from being drowned by majority religious expression.

  • Robbins Mitchell

    Here in Texas members of the Native American Church are legally permitted to use peyote buttons in a ‘bona fide’ worship service’…having sampled peyote,I can well understand the belief….but as a legal matter,the law probably violates the equal protection clause and the establishment of religion clause

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