Supreme Court to hear RFRA hallucinogenic tea case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court Monday agreed to consider whether a Brazil-based church can continue using a traditional Native American tea brewed from a hallucinogenic herb, hoasca, as a religious sacrament. The case is Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal, docket 04-1084. The 10th Circuit held [full opinion] that the Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal [official website] had made a prima facie case under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act [links to full text] that the Bush administration's efforts to prevent their use of hoasca limited their free exercise of a sincerely-held religious belief and issued an injunction [PDF complaint requesting injunctive relief] preventing the government from enforcing the Controlled Substances Act against church members, who number about 140 in the US and 8,000 worldwide. Government arguments that permitting use of the tea harmed church members, leads to illegal trafficking of the tea to non-members, and "directly impairs the effectiveness of international narcotics law-enforcement efforts, frustrates intergovernmental cooperation, and weakens the government's ability to insist that other countries adhere to their treaty obligations." The First Amendment Center has a number of documents relating to the case, while the Center for Cognitive Liberty has a background page on the herb in question and other cases related to it. AP has more on the grant.

Also Monday, the Supreme Court granted certiorari is Georgia v. Randolph, raising the issue of whether law enforcement officers can search the common areas of premises if one or more occupants objects, even if another agrees, and Maryland v. Blake, on a suspects communication with police after being informed of his right to counsel. The full Order List is now available here [PDF].

 

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