The same day Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, signed the bill known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), paperwork was also submitted to register The First Church of Cannabis Inc. as a non-profit organization in the Hoosier State.
As it turns out, the recently enacted controversial law prevents the state (Indiana) government from “substantially burdening” a person’s right to exercise religion.
Lawmakers likely had no idea of the far-reaching effects of the decision to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, reported that the RFRA is meant to ensure that the government does not infringe on peoples’ religious beliefs. He contends that he wants to ensure that Indiana remains a state where all faiths are respected.
Others think that it is really meant to protect business owners from being compelled to provide services for same-sex weddings. Indiana was the recipient of a fair amount of negative comments following refusal by some establishments to supply cakes, flowers or photography for this purpose.
Bill Levin, found of The First Church of Cannabis, does not care about the intentions behind the new law, however, and is poised and ready to take advantage of it. Levin’s registration paperwork for The First Church of Cannabis has since been approved, and on the day that the RFRA becomes law, Levin intends to hold the church’s first service with sacrament.
On July 1, Levin will call to worship, and the sanctuary will fill with the sweet smell of sacramental cannabis.
According to the tenets of the church, cannabis is a holy sacrament. Therefore, the new act — albeit inadvertently — likely sanctions the smoking of marijuana during services. Although the proof will be seen when the service is allowed to take place unimpeded, the founder feels it is unlikely that they will be disturbed by law enforcement.
Levin is banking on the government not wanting to be on the receiving end of any more bad press. According to him, he’s had even right-wing conservatives giving him the thumbs up.
The church founder is not just trying to get a free pass at getting high, however. He believes that old religions no longer reflect the needs of the time. Church members feel that marijuana:
“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.”
In line with these beliefs, the first service will include, in addition to a short sermon, testimonies from members about positive experiences in their lives.
Without a doubt, eyes will be turned toward Indiana on July 1 when the act becomes law, as well as afterward. First, to see if the church services are, indeed, left undisturbed. Second, to see how this religion unfolds as time goes on.