Legality of Our Practice
Supreme Court Says “OK” To Ayahuasca
WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court rejected government arguments against use of a hallucinogenic tea in religious services.
The U.S. Supreme Court, saying law enforcement goals in some cases must yield to religious rights
At the Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth, we believe that its members possess a constitutional right, guaranteed by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to use the sacred sacraments of Ayahuasca, The sacred sacraments are core to our religious practices; any effort by the Government to abridge the religious use of such sacred Earth bounty would substantially inhibit and unduly burden the ability of our members to peacefully practice their religious faith.
Also, we believe, and will forcefully advocate for, the continued right to use these plant medicine teachers according to natural law, a philosophy denoting that certain rights or values are inherent by virtue of human nature, and universally cognizable through human reason. Natural law has been historically used to refer to the use of reason to analyze social and personal behaviors to deduce binding rules of morality based on the law of nature, which are determined by nature and the elements of the natural world itself and are therefore universal and without question. The fact is, these plants grow from the Earth. According to Indigenous Native American beliefs, “anything that grows from the Earth is sacred, and here for our learning and use.”
Further, as a Indigenous Native American Church, Soul Quest and its members believe in, and advocated for, the specific, legal right to experience sacred plant medicines based on two federal bills passed by U.S. Congress to protect the Religious Freedom of the Indigenous Native Americans:
–The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA): This 1993 U.S. Federal Law “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.”
The question is, then, what is “religious freedom?” Most simply, it is the right of every American to practice their own religion, however that may be defined, as long as they are not infringing on another person’s rights or safety. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that everyone in the United States has the right to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all, without persecution or discrimination.
The following constitutes the request for a religious-based exemption by Soul Quest Church of Mother Earth, Inc., d/b/a, Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth Retreat & Wellness Center (“Soul Quest”) to the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. §§ 801, et seq., specifically as it pertains to the ritual use by Soul Quest of ayahuasca for its sacramental activities. Soul Quest asserts its eligibility for such an exemption, pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal v. Gonzalez, 546 U.S. 418 (2006) (“Gonzalez”), and the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb, et seq., (“RFRA”).
Soul Quest and its adherents hold a common set of beliefs regarding the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, asserting that the creation of all things is the result of the divine of the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit has provided to all being an eternal force, one that permeates all beings.
As will be discussed throughout this exemption request, Soul Quest and its adherents sanctify and uphold this core religious belief through its devotional and ritual observances. The foundation for all religious beliefs and practices within Soul Quest are premised upon its belief in a specific moral code binding the conduct of human affairs.
As the federal courts have continuously recognized, the Government cannot impose a religious litmus test, designed to favor certain types of religions or religious practices over others. The primary effect of a government policy or practice cannot be designed to inhibit religion. Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-13 (1971). In other words, any consideration of an exemption application cannot have the effect of “officially prefer[ring] [one religious denomination] over another.” Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 244 (1982).
The United States Supreme Court has explained that any endorsement of a majority religion “sends the ancillary message to . . . nonadherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.’” Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 310 (2000) (quoting Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 688 (1984) (O’Connor, J., concurring)). The Equal Protection Clause likewise prohibits the Government from impermissibly discriminating among persons based on religion. De La Cruz v. Tormey, 582 F.2d 45, 50 (9th Cir. 1978).
Accordingly, any consideration by the Executive Branch of a religious exemption to the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act must be made so as not to disfavor minority religious groups. The refusal or inability of the Government to attend to this, would constitute violations of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment’s (implicit within the Fifth Amendment) Equal Protection Clause. Effectively, the Drug Enforcement Administration must consider the exemption application so as to vindicate a standard that would maximize any collision with religious freedoms. This is consistent with both the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Gonzalez case, above, and with the tenets of the RFRA. Official action that targets religious conduct for distinctive treatment cannot be shielded by mere compliance with the requirement of facial neutrality.” Larson, 456 U.S. at 254-55 (holding that a facially neutral law or regulation violated the Establishment Clause in light of legislative history demonstrating an intent to apply regulations only to minority religions); Village of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Housing Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 266-67 (1977).
In order to facilitate the DEA’s examination and its granting of a religious exemption, this application for exemption will provide a full background on Soul Quest, inclusive of a description of its activities, its sincerely-held beliefs, and its other recognition as being a recognized religious institution under state and federal laws. It is Soul Quest’s reasonable expectation that, upon serious consideration by the Drug Enforcement Administration and any cooperating agencies, that Soul Quest will be deemed eligible for its religious-based exemption.
Soul Quest has taken the liberty of breaking down the issues within the following narrative, designed to fully apprise DEA on its qualifications for the requested exemption. The individuals assessing this material will note that Soul Quest embodies many of the same religious and moral principles of other religious faiths, inclusive of core Judeo-Christian values. These values are joined with the embracing of the belief systems of traditional indigenous civilizations including, but certainly not limited to, those of Native American tribal beliefs and practices. Indeed, one might analogize Soul Quest with the belief system and canon of the Unitarian Universalist Church, which embraces and weaves the religious beliefs, principles practices and morays of a multitude of religious and even non-religious faiths into its own faith. See http://www.uua.org/beliefs/who-we-are/beliefs.
Supportive materials relating to this breakdown of the nature of the Soul Quest faith and its liturgy are attached to this document. Ultimately, it is reasonably anticipated that DEA will grant Soul Quest’s application for exemption, determining that Soul Quest meets the necessary criteria including, as established by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in U.S. v. Meyers, 95 F.3d 1475 (1996) (acknowledging that the threshold for determining sincerity of religious beliefs is low); U.S. v. Meyers, 906 F. Supp. 1494, 1501 (D. Wyo. 1995) (so long as the stated factors are “minimally satisfied, the practice should be considered religious”).
Conclusion & Request for Granting of Religious-Based Exemption
In conclusion, Soul Quest reiterates its request for a religious-based exemption from the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act, as pertaining to its ritual use of ayahuasca in its conducting holy sacraments. Soul Quest remains confident that a review of this application, inclusive of all supplemental materials, will result in the granting of the requested exemption. Of course, Soul Quest welcomes the opportunity to address any questions or issues raised by the Drug Enforcement Administration or its cooperating agents in its consideration of this exemption application.
In its simplest terms, “what does this mean?”
Under the federally-enacted RFRA the laws of the land and natural law; and our core religious tenets, Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth is protected from governmental interference in our plant medicine ceremonies and other sacramental practices. These laws and beliefs allow members of the Indigenous Native American Church to freely exercise our religion by holding sacred ceremonies with the plant teachers that the Indigenous Native Americans have honored and worshiped for millennia.