Wednesday, November 02, 2005

SCOTUS and the hallucinogenic tea

From Bloomberg:

U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. led a chorus of Supreme Court skepticism aimed at a Bush administration effort to bar a 130-member New Mexico church from using a hallucinogenic tea in religious ceremonies.

Roberts today was one of several justices who suggested that a U.S. religious-freedom law trumped the Justice Department's contention that hoasca is dangerous and illegal under both a federal controlled-substances law and a treaty. Roberts questioned the government's argument that it needs to bar all use of hoasca to prevent diversion to non-religious uses...

The case poses the first religious-freedom test during Roberts's watch as chief justice. It pits the Bush administration against religious groups including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals.

The case centers on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says the U.S. government can't restrict religious activities except to meet a "compelling interest."

Congress passed the law in reaction to a 1990 Supreme Court ruling that said governments could enforce generally applicable laws, even if they incidentally restricted religious practices. That ruling, which involved a different hallucinogen known as peyote, limited the scope of the constitutional clause that protects the free exercise of religion.

Ann Althouse responds. As does SCOTUSblog: "The government’s no-exception, zero-tolerance approach to the religious use of a hallucinogen ran into considerable skepticism among the Justices. Only one, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, seemed ready to go most of the way to support the government side... Perhaps the most telling development of the argument was that Justice Antonin Scalia displayed almost no sympathy for the government’s position."

I wonder if Alito will be asked about this at his confirmation hearings. (Kidding.)

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