Roberts Court And Religious Freedom

Ken AshfordConstitution, Godstuff, Supreme CourtLeave a Comment

Tea_300x193SCOTUS addressed its first religious freedom case today under Roberts’ stewardship.  The vote was unanimous (with Alito not participating since oral arguments took place before he was sworn in).

It was actually a no-brainer in my view, and the Bush Administration rightfully lost.

A small Brazilian-based religious sect in New Mexico uses hallucinogenic tea as part of a four-hour ritual intended to connect with God.  (It’s called hoasca tea if y’all are interested).  The tea contains an illegal drug known as DMT.

The issue before the court was whether or not the seizure of the tea by the DEA violated the religious freedom of the sect.

The answer: Of course it does. 

The government attempted to argue about the substantial interest that the government has in wanting uniformity in its drug laws, but SCOTUS was unpersuaded.  The Court noted, for example, that while peyote is illegal, Congress has always created a statutory exception for Native American Indian tribes that use the stuff as part of its ritualistic ceremonies. 

Full text (PDF) of the opinion here: Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal et al.

ALSO:  Partial-birth abortion is back on the docket.