Holy smoke: Toronto church argues that pot is a religious right
Two hippies-cum-spiritual-priests from Toronto are challenging Canada’s drug laws, claiming that members of the Assembly of the Church of the Universe—namely, themselves—should be exempt from marijuana regulations because the plant is sacred to their religion. “Reverend Brothers” Peter Styrsky and Shahrooz Kharaghani were charged with drug trafficking in 2006 after police raided their church. As part of their defence, they say that smoking marijuana brings them closer to God. The Crown begs to differ, however, saying in the Toronto Star that the Church of the Universe is “an inside joke” that “offers no comprehensive system of belief by which to live,” and thereby doesn’t quite qualify as a religious institution.
A perusal of their nearly unnavigable Web site (think Homer Simpson’s personal page, only stoned) offers little help on the issue. Requirements to join the church are less than stringent: one must be a creature of God (um, check?), one must believe that God is God (rather than Satan?), and one must adhere to the golden rules (do not hurt yourself, and do not hurt anyone else).
At a court hearing Wednesday, one of the reverends commented on various objects brought in from the Universe church in the Beach—known as the G13 Mission—in an attempt to demonstrate that it is indeed a place of worship. Included were books on Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II, as well as a photo of a potato chip–dispensing machine. “Some of our members have requested them, so we make them available,” Styrsky said about the chips, according to the Post.
With munchies like that, we’re assuming that the church isn’t getting its weed from Health Canada.
• Pot key to ‘church,’ court told [National Post]
• Smoking cannabis a religious right, court told [Toronto Star]
• Church seeks OK to smoke ‘sacred’ marijuana [Toronto Sun]
One thought on “Holy smoke: Toronto church argues that pot is a religious right”
Vending machines in churches(or any other social establishment, for that matter) are commonplace.
Besides, there’s a larger issue at hand here that I think this case illustrates well: How can the Crown deny such a claim? If churches are solely occupied with the metaphysical and the “supernatural”, how do you determine whether or not what they claim is valid? How is this any less of a church than any other church out there? A lack of traditional churchgoing practice does not prove a lack of a church. Or, at least, it shouldn’t in Canada in the 21st century.
More importantly, why are we wasting resources pursuing cases like these? Are these people harmful? If not, what basis do we have for criminalizing them?
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