First Church of Cannabis: Religious Freedom Takes On A New Understanding
As Easter Sunday approaches, certain church goers in Indiana are rejoicing over the new, yet controversial enactment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which inadvertently opened the door for the First Church of Cannabis. That's right, you heard it correctly the first time. A church dedicated and approved by state law, that allows it's congregation to smoke all the marijuana that the good Lord bestows upon them, without fear of being reprimanded by Indiana's strict marijuana laws. The new act, which is being deemed the discriminatory "anti-gay religious law", has been receiving backlash from many, since it allows for individuals and businesses to deny services to gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs. Despite being based on prejudice, the new legislation which was signed by Governor Mike Pence (R), has had the unintended consequence of allowing marijuana users to smoke all the joints they want, and "as long as you can show that reefer is part of your religious practices, you got a pretty good shot of getting off scott-free", according to the church's represented attorney. The Church's founder, Bill Levin, said to the Washington Post that "if someone is smoking in our church, God Bless them," and that the First Church of Cannabis is based on "love and understanding with compassion for all." Levin, who is currently asking for donations of at least $4.20 to support his non-profit church, has even gone as far as to make a series of commandments, the first of which : "Don't be an asshole. Treat everyone with Love as an equal." Speaking more on the church's philosophy and his role, Levin told the Chicago Tribune that he thinks "most religions are misled into gross perversions of what they are meant to be. This path has led me to lead a religion that people in today's world can relate to. We don't have any guilt doctrine built in. We don't have any sin built in." Although marijuana will be the main sacrament of Levin's church both for growing and smoking, it will not be bought or sold at the Church, in order to comply with state law, which still forbids medical and recreational use of marijuana. After receiving more than 25,000 Facebook fans since setting up a page no more than a week ago, it appears as though the First Church of Cannabis has no intention of slowing down and actually plans on extending it's services to drug and alcohol rehabilitation patients. "We're progressing to get a building property to be our holy ground," said Levin to the Chicago Tribune. We're going to setup counseling for heroin since we have a huge epidemic in this country. We'll probably have Alcoholics Anonymous, too. I'm not going to allow alcohol on the premise. " The First Church of Cannabis may sound like a late April Fools joke to some, however; the acceptance of the church, from a legal perspective, marks a bittersweet win to those of the religious marijuana persuasion, and an unfortunate step backward for gay rights.