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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: religious freedom

Idaho’s Freedom of Religion Act fails to protect Boisean from marijuana charge

A Boise man has failed to convince Idaho's Court of Appeals that he can't be prosecuted for marijuana possession because he used the weed as a religious sacrament after Idaho lawmakers in 2000 voted to elevate religious rights over all other rights in the state's “Free Exercise of Religion” act. That law, pushed by then-Idaho pastor Bryan Fischer, an outspoken Christian conservative who a year later was named chaplain of the Idaho Senate, and passed over the objections of nearly all the state's mainstream churches, promised attorney fees and costs to anyone who wins a case under it claiming the government violated their religious rights.

Cary William White was arrested for marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop in 2007, and he appealed his case to the state Court of Appeals, saying his religion, including a mix of Christianity, Rastafarianism, and various other beliefs, was behind his marijuana use. “The sacrament of Marijuana is a gift from my creator and I enter into the experience of Marijuana with the intent to bless it,” White said in court documents.

He said he had been smoking marijuana for seven years after trying it as a natural pain reliever after a fall from a ladder, and he found it to be a “spiritual experience” that “drew me into a whole different mode of prayer.” He also told a lower court that marijuana calmed his mind and that he used it as an exercise of his belief that he should have the freedom to engage in such actions.

Idaho's Court of Appeals judges, in a unanimous decision authored by Judge Sergio Gutierrez, tossed out White's appeal. “While White may have testified in a manner to link his marijuana use to legitimate religious beliefs and practices, this was more of an instance where he has utilized parts of various recognized religions 'to meld into a justification for his use of marijuana' and did not … establish a link between any recognized religious beliefs he may have and his marijuana use,” the court wrote. The judges also pointed to a 1995 federal court case that warned that religious freedom laws could become “the first refuge of scoundrels if defendants could justify illegal conduct simply by crying 'religion.'”

Church sues city over zoning rules

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho (AP) — A church is suing the city of Mountain Home in federal court, contending the city's zoning rules violate the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against religious groups. No Limits Christian Ministries applied for a conditional use permit so the church could worship in a vacant building. But the city denied the church's request, saying that there weren't enough parking spaces for the congregation and that people who parked on blocks adjacent to the building would have to cross busy city streets, possibly posing a hazard. In the lawsuit, the church says Mountain Home's zoning rules violate the First and 14th Amendments because while it allows clubs, lodges and other group activities without requiring special permits, it specifically bars churches and requires that religious groups prove they deserve a conditional use permit.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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