“Why is marijuana against the law? It grows naturally upon our planet. Doesn’t the idea of making nature against the law seem to you a bit…unnatural?” ~ Bill Hicks
Following Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signing into law a recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Bill Levin filed paperwork in direct response with the stated intent being; “to start a church based on love and understanding with compassion for all, “ with it’s sacrament being Cannabis.
On Thursday, 26th of March Secretary of State Connie Lawson approved the church as a religious corporation.
While Indiana’s government were busy working on a law that offers little protection to those discriminated due to a religious group’s beliefs, Levin was gathering the necessary paperwork to form a church to celebrate the use of Cannabis.
The reasons for this, Levin explained during an interview with High Times, were “This whole anti-gay bill they were producing here was just a horrid little thing that everybody was watching real closely and it became evident that this state thinks more about religion than it does about government or equal rights or anything else. I filed the papers with the Secretary of State on Thursday, as soon as Mikey signed off on that damn bill, and it came back the next morning that it was accepted.”
Indiana’s government, who has previously refused to hear anything to do with legalizing marijuana, has now acknowledged that The Church of Cannabis Inc celebrates Cannabis, has accepted the group’s faith and recognized it as a legitimate ministry.
Due to Indiana’s new law, the state government have a limited ability to impede on an individual’s religious belief or the exercise of their religion, and because the church celebrates Cannabis, use of the drug within this new religious group could be protected.
If police do make any attempts to arrest church members Levin has explained, “we’re in a religious ward and they’re going to lose. There’s not a judge in Indiana who wants to have religion in front of him as a case. They’re petrified. You don’t want to be in a position of judging God. So, I’m as safe as a baby on his momma’s titty.”
Although it is still illegal to use Cannabis for medical or recreational use and also against the law to buy or sell marijuana in Indiana, Levin has stated that his church does intend to grow hemp, however they won’t be buying or selling.
Levin’s Facebook page now has over 20,000 likes and he admits that he is astounded by the support saying, “I didn’t realize I was going to have the most popular religion in the country,” also stating, “I’m on a mission from God,” referencing the famous Blues Brothers quote.
The following is the First Church of Cannabis’ guide, written by Bill Levin, a Minister of Love and Grand Pooba of the Church, and is based on a similar style to “The Ten Commandments.”
The New Deity Dozen
“Practice these in your daily adventures in life, teach others to do the same.”
1. Don’t be an asshole. Treat everyone with Love as an equal.
2. The day starts with your smile every morning. when you get up, wear it first.
3. Help others when you can. Not for money, but because it’s needed.
4. Treat your body as a temple. Do not poison it with poor quality foods and sodas.
5. Do not take advantage of people. Do not intentionally hurt anything.
6. Never start a fight… only finish them.
7. Grow food, raise animals get nature into your daily routine
8. Do not be a “troll” on the internet, respect others without name calling and being vulgarly aggressive.
9. Spend at least 10 mins a day just contemplating life in a quiet space.
10. when you see a bully… stop them by any means possible. Protect those who can not protect themselves.
11. Laugh often, share humor. Have fun in life, be positive.
12. Cannabis, “the Healing Plant” is our sacrament. It brings us closer to ourselves and others. It is our fountain of health, our love, curing us from illness and depression. We embrace it with our whole heart and spirit, individually and as a group.
Levin explains his reasons for founding this new religion further, “I’m very faith-driven, I’m very spiritual and I’m filled with love,” he said. “I find that 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 it. We don’t have any guilt doctrine built in. We don’t have any sin built in.”
Indiana’s intentions for their Religious Freedom Restoration Act was to give power to those with firm beliefs to decide who and what they can include in their circle. However, it seems, this has now opened a gateway for faith’s such as Levin’s to be included in this legislation so that they are empowered to create their own laws within the law as they are protected from government intervention unless there is compelling interest to do so.
The Church of Cannabis Inc—the first test of many for Indiana, who is already under worldwide scrutiny for passing legislation that appears as anti-gay and discriminatory to many, as religions will be legally allowed to decide to refuse services to those who do not comply with what they believe in.
My guess is that Bill Levin will not be the only one to form a group that sits within this new law and therefore is also protected by the government to a certain extent.
Although at this stage, Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence has stated that there are no intentions to change the law, they may find that they find the need to write into the legislation a part that protects from discrimination.
Public outcry has already surprised Indiana’s Government as they did not expect a backlash quite like the one they have experienced. Although the Church of Cannabis Inc and LGBT rights are two separate issues, they are also inexplicably intertwined and the setting up of a religion for cannabis provides another shocking twist to the saga that has been created by the passing of an act that the Indiana’s Government insists was to create more freedom.
It most likely won’t be long before other activist groups come forward with their own causes, with the sole determination of having them viewed and approved as “religious” groups in order to gain protected rights, similar to those that Bill Levin’s new religion has now received.
The eyes of the world will be watching to see if Indiana’s Government admit that there have been errors that have opened loopholes for discrimination, or if they continue like they say they will, supporting the new law and so be subjected to more applications for creations of groups under the disguise of religion.
Author: Alex Sandra Myles
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Carlos Gracia on Flickr
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