Court Overrules Church's Use of Pot as Sacrament 

Court Overrules Church's Use of Pot as Sacrament 
Posted by CN Staff on December 26, 2006 at 21:55:30 PT
By Stephanie Innes, Arizona Daily Star
Source: Arizona Daily Star
Arizona -- A federal judge has ruled against the founders of a Southeastern Arizona church that deifies marijuana and uses it as a sacrament, saying they don't have a "sincere" religious belief. In her refusal to dismiss charges against Dan and Mary Quaintance, U.S. District Judge Judith C. Herrera in Albuquerque wrote that evidence indicates the pair "adopted their 'religious' belief in cannabis as a sacrament and deity in order to justify their lifestyle choice to use marijuana."
Herrera's Dec. 22 order means the government's criminal case against the Quaintances will proceed in the new year. The couple is scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 16 on criminal charges of possessing more than 100 pounds of marijuana, as well as conspiracy charges. "She doesn't fully understand our doctrine," Dan Quaintance said Tuesday of Herrera's decision. "This is very upsetting to the members of our church. It was quite a holiday present." The Quaintances face up to 40 years each in prison if they are convicted as charged. They expect to appeal the decision. The couple was arrested with 172 pounds of marijuana on Feb. 22 in Lordsburg, N.M., just seven days before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a small religious group based in Santa Fe that combines Christianity and American Indian practices could use hallucinogenic tea in its ceremonies. The tea, called hoasca, contains dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, known for its hallucinogenic properties. Members of the O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal, or UDV, said using the hallucinogenic tea during worship helped them gain union with God. The Supreme Court based its decision on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says the government needs to justify any action that would substantially burden people from practicing their faith. Citing the UDV case, the Quaintances asked that their charges be dismissed. A three-day hearing on their request was held in Albuquerque in August, and the Quaintances had been awaiting a decision from Herrera since then. The U.S. Constitution contains no legally recognizable definition of religion, but courts still can apply a test of sincerity. In her decision, Herrera cited evidence she said indicates the Quaintances created the church to justify their belief that marijuana should be legalized. "Defendants cannot avoid prosecution for illegal conduct simply by transforming their lifestyle choices into a 'religion,' " she wrote. The Church of Cognizance, which leaders say has "monasteries" in members' homes nationwide, has a simple motto: "With good thoughts, good words and good deeds, we honor marijuana; as the teacher, the provider, the protector." The Quaintances don't grow their sacrament but, rather, say they rely on donations of it, which they pick up from church "couriers." That's what they say they were about to do when they were arrested. The pair say they founded their Church of Cognizance in Pima, Ariz., in 1991. A "declaration of religious sentiment" on behalf of the Church of Cognizance was filed with the Graham County Recorder's Office in 1994. Until their arrest this year, the Quaintances had not faced any criminal charges related to their church. Free on bond, the Quaintances continue to live in Pima, about 90 miles northeast of Tucson, though they remain under court supervision and must submit to regular urine tests. Prior to their arrest, the couple say they smoked or ingested marijuana daily. In court documents, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office said the Quaintances are "obsessed and focused on marijuana," and Dan Quaintance's writings about his worship are "disjointed, poorly supported, illogical ramblings." Dan Quaintance, 54, said the church has 40 to 50 members in Arizona, but he cannot estimate how many there are nationwide. Members must be 18 to join. Since the case became public this summer, more people have been inquiring about joining the church, he said. Both Dan and Mary, who is 51, stepped down as leaders of the church following their arrests. But the couple hope to one day resume what they view as their worship. "Normally on Christmas we would have shared the herb with our friends and church members," Dan Quaintance said. "Instead we had presents. We were a little empty. ... What's happening to us is a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution. It's clear we are sincere." Note: Says founders lack a 'sincere' religious belief.Source: Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, AZ)Author: Stephanie Innes, Arizona Daily Star Published: December 27, 2006Copyright: 2006 Arizona Daily StarContact: letters azstarnet.comWebsite: http://www.azstarnet.comRelated Articles & Web Site:Church Of Cognizance Church Loses Its Founders Say Pot Is Part of Faith Church Claims Offend Believers
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Comment #14 posted by paulpeterson on December 29, 2006 at 11:51:55 PT
John Tyler
Your point is well taken here. True, that judge would have been too scared to take a career hit just for supporting sacramental usage.More importantly, assuming the case goes up on appeal, it would appear that the knee-jerk reaction of the judge, in so cavalierly disregarding a subjective matter like "sincerity", without fully briefing her thoughts with supporting logic, will allow for big chinks to appear in the shield of denial.I've previously briefed the issue in federal court in Chicago, in 2003, and from both the draft cases (ie: religious motivation for non-violent objection to war, etc.) and the First Amendment cases, seem to indicate there are specific standards and rubrics that this judge has obtusely disregarded. If anybody wants a copy of my brief, email me at omegabeef PAUL PETERSON
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Comment #13 posted by John Tyler on December 28, 2006 at 18:51:26 PT
another thought
Winning a case this important at this first level in Fed court would have been an absolute miracle. Can you imagine? “Fed judge rules cannabis is a sacrament.” It would have set some kind of precedent. It would have also been a career ender for the judge, social snubs, no snooty friends, etc., etc. Everybody would like a promotion too sometime you know, and the judge was on the Fed payroll. Something this important has to go up through the appeal process.    
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Comment #12 posted by museman on December 28, 2006 at 12:05:32 PT
look upon it
This is the face of the Status Quo.This is the thousand pound gorilla.This is the essence of prohibition; "I have the authority, and I say this is how it is." "I got the power and the money, I decide your religion, your faith and your belief.""I have the control, and I decide how to interpret law, which parts to ignore, and which parts to use to pad my bank account."Freedom of religion, is just like all other american 'freedoms' supposedly guaranteed by the constition, if you can grease enough political palms, you can get 'legitimized'. Freedom is a commodity, it has a very high price tag, and logic, reason, and common sense in the court room have become unacceptable mediums of debate, as well as legal defense against their lies and subterfuge.When I was accused of 'manufacturing' way back before Reagan declared the WOD, I brought up the obvious point that there was no 'manufacture' of anything, and that if there was, it was God who was responsible for that, and not me. By the definition of the word, (which they later changed to 'cultivation' probably because of this very kind of situation) they gave me godlike powers of creation, then stated that God's creation (or mine) was against the law.When I claimed that marijuana was my sacrament, they flat out refused to allow my statement, and without discussion or debate, decided that my religion was invalid. They call their religion 'christianity' named after the Greco/Roman mythos of 'Jesus Christ' which is loosely based on the actual life, and teachings of Yashua ben Yoseph, who was annointed as YSHWH....they call it love, but practice something completely different; greed, selfishness, propriety, prejudice, bigotry, theft, lies - all negative and destructive.Their hypocrisy stinks across decades and into tomorrow.They have power because they always have. No revolution ever really succeeded in changing that, because people support the value system which has empowered these monsters.The few of us who refuse to bow to such false authority suffer for all the rest who are timidly hiding behind their jobs, and their 'comfort zones.'Until people are willing and ready to stand up to the thugs, the false leaders, the false authority, and the false values, with conviction, determination, and a willingness to sacrifice a little comfort for a bit more sanity, this ridiculous game of power will continue, no matter how many political scapegoats are thrown to the mob.
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Comment #11 posted by runderwo on December 28, 2006 at 10:23:52 PT
"In court documents, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office said the Quaintances are "obsessed and focused on marijuana," and Dan Quaintance's writings about his worship are "disjointed, poorly supported, illogical ramblings.""In further new, Quaintance also went on record characterizing the Bible that the defendants were sworn in upon as a book of "fully connected, well supported, logical conjecture".
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Comment #10 posted by Hope on December 28, 2006 at 07:10:14 PT
Our job
is not unlike having to try to wake people from hypnosis or a spell or curse of some kind.It's, seemingly, impossible.
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Comment #9 posted by Hope on December 28, 2006 at 07:08:50 PT
John Tyler comment 8
I agree.
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Comment #8 posted by John Tyler on December 28, 2006 at 06:26:44 PT
it's not about the beliefs
The whole issue is about the cannabis. The belief issue is a smoke screen. If the church members beliefs called for them to drink urine from a communal cup no one would care. The church’s beliefs would be on solid ground. Whenever cannabis is involved in anything though the prohibitionists go crazy and can’t be reasoned with. I hope the church can appeal and get better lawyers. 
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Comment #7 posted by jasgrave333 on December 28, 2006 at 05:17:29 PT:
Sincere Religious beliefs???
I'd like to start by introducing the Judges to the 10 Commandments, sincerely stone written laws.In fact after being a Jehovah's Witness for 33 years, and finding out that that supposedly sincerely religious faith based 'cult' is as bent and corrupt as any other organised religion:
( )Judges, my SINCERE cannabis using rights, are just that. please verse YOURselves with reading the 10 commandments of which a copy can be found at; Deuteronomy 5:1-33.And any money bent or law perverting 'justices' of the 'peace', please note; Gen 1:29 etc!Sincererly, a Religious Cannabis user.
Reverend Jason Graves
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Comment #6 posted by afterburner on December 27, 2006 at 21:29:41 PT
Hope #4 & Storm Crow #5
I can understand judges, when ruling on a violent crime, restricting access to tools of violence, like guns and knives, and to other violent people or advocates of violence.I cannot understand judges who put unconstitutional bail conditions on peaceful cannabis people, restricting their freedom of speech, freedom of association, their access to their medicine and/or sacrament and even their livelihood. It's only a plant with mild psychoactive properties that help mental balance and spiritual discovery. Why all the fuss? War on drugs is over if you want it. [paraphrasing John and Yoko]
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Comment #5 posted by Storm Crow on December 27, 2006 at 09:51:27 PT
I used to live in America, Land of the Free!
I haven't moved, but so many freedoms have been taken from me! How can a man judge another's heart-felt beliefs? Freedom of religion, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of thought....rapidly vanishing from this land. I've seen guns in our airports and streets- not held by criminals, but by soldiers and police. I still feel fear there. Who am I more afraid of??? The terrorists or the soldier/cops? We once had a machine gun nest on the roof of the White House- will it be there again? Is it there again? The press whips up our fear on a daily basis, justifying the present madness. Do I live in America? Or Amerika?
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Comment #4 posted by Hope on December 27, 2006 at 09:15:39 PT
A lot of the members of the biggest churches
in every town are there for business connections. They are not sincere in their belief in God...or their so called religion. They are insincere in their supposed belief. They worship commerce and making money and they are at the church to promote that and their place in the community.Besides the judge saying the Quaintances were insincere (I disagree with her and that...because, as we know, there are many among us who consider the plant holy or a holy gift). I suspect the Quaintances are far more "sincere" in their beliefs than half the Businessman's Class at the First Whatever Church in town.As far as that reference to "lifestyle choices"....What the? The Judge gets to judge their "lifestyle choices"? That's obscene. Absolutely obscene.We're not talking about "lifestyle" that involves hurting others or abusing anyone. Their "lifestyle choices" should be theirs...and not the government's. The judge's "lifestyle choices" (like she's the Queen!) bother me.It sounds so Soviet Communist Russian. The government chooses your lifestyle for you.It's obscene that Americans are forced to bow to the government in such in matters.
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Comment #3 posted by global_warming on December 27, 2006 at 06:11:10 PT
is that the end?
I hope they appeal. Pardons Marijuana Convicts On Chistmas Day
Bush Pardons Marijuana Convicts On Chistmas Day
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Comment #2 posted by doc james on December 27, 2006 at 06:07:15 PT
not sincere in their religion,says who?
Give me a break. How can these prosecutors, right wing babtists for sure, say these two people aren't sincere in their beliefs? Are they "all knowing, all seeing, and all judging others but not themselves. I think their religion is a sham, the prosecutors that is. It is up to each individual how they practice their faith. Cannabis is surely a big part of my faith thogh i am not calling it a church, but through the use of this herb, I am a more caring enlightened individual. That should be enough. We are free to worship as we choose not as they choose for us. big brother bite me!
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on December 26, 2006 at 21:59:22 PT
Off Topic: Former President Ford Dies at 93,8599,1572927,00.html
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