It’s no secret that religion has been a source of conflict among Hoosiers as of late. With the introduction of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, those conflicts peaked as the initial rhetoric of the act would allow local businesses to refuse goods and services to members of the LGBTQIA community.
Even after some hasty word changes from Gov. Mike Pence seemed to amend the issue, one loophole snuck by: churches and religious organizations are still allowed a certain immunity from laws. Thus, Bill Levin started the First Church of Cannabis.
The Church of Cannabis doesn’t claim to worship any specific god but instead follows a group of foundational guidelines called the Deity Dozen. The guidelines cover treating all people with respect, living a healthy lifestyle, and generally, as the first of the Dozen puts it, “not being an asshole.”
Oh, and the congregation smokes pot to cleanse their bodies of harmful products like processed sugars and fats and help bring members into closer contact with themselves and others.
Many have criticized the church, especially in light of its recent 501(c)3 tax-exempt status, the status held by ?traditional churches, as critics believe it isn’t a real church or a real religion.
However, the Deity Dozen lays out exactly what is at the basis of most modern religions - rules to follow to be a good person. Religions are faith groups that try to make sense of the individual and the world ?around them.
Making that connection doesn’t need to be done in any one way or another, which is what makes religion so attractive to people. Because of the subjectiveness of faith, it’s extremely difficult for anyone, especially the IRS or a court of law, to discern which religions are legitimate and which ?are not.
It’s sticky, and the Editorial Board doesn’t blame the IRS or the Indiana courts for treating the Church of Cannabis as a true church. It’s followed all the rules. You know, except for the weed-smoking sacrament thing.
Marijuana has been the focal point in every media story regarding the church. It seems unheard of to have illegal activity permissible within a church of all places.
Or is it?
Levin makes the valid argument that the end-of-service smoking ritual is no different than the underage drinking that takes place at Christian Holy Communion services. Both are symbolic events that are closely tied to the beliefs of their church, and both are ?currently illegal outside of the confines of religion.
As far as the law and the rules of religion go, the Church of Cannibas is doing nothing wrong. And who knows, perhaps Levin’s actions will open the door to other new faiths or at least spark some serious ?conversation about marijuana decriminalization.
So to those who are perturbed by this new religion, think it’s all a ?publicity stunt or believe Bill Levin is just a crackpot who wants to test the limits of RFRA, we say, “ mellow out, dude.”