Judge dismisses woman’s religious drug-use argument

Judge dismisses woman’s religious drug-use argument

For years Brenda Williams Shoop struggled in a journey to get closer to God, she told a judge Thursday.

And then she found a textbook that discussed a marijuana side effect, and later discovered a church that classifies the illegal drug as a key ingredient to a sacrament essential to becoming a Christian, she said.

“It opens up someone’s mind and helps apply (Christian) missions,” Shoop said of marijuana’s effects.

The description was a key part of the argument by the 44-year-old Shoop, and her husband, Bruce, who contended Thursday that their drug-related charges should be dismissed because marijuana is part of their religion.

After more than three hours of testimony, Baldwin County Circuit Court Judge Robert Wilters denied the request, sending the couple back to the Baldwin County Corrections Center.

Brenda Shoop said Thursday that she grew up in a Southern Baptist church. In recent years, she has struggled to find the spiritual fulfillment she has been looking for while exploring other denominations. Her religious belief and understanding, however, hit a turning point in nursing school when she read about marijuana’s disassociation side effect, she said.

That side effect, she said, helped her get closer to God as it quieted all the voices in her head and helped her “rise above the mundane and see that you are part of a bigger picture.”

The Shoops argued that since their arrest they have started a ministry in their Robertsdale home and serve as missionaries for Universal Orthodox Church, which is based in Atlanta. The Christian denomination believes marijuana has biblical origins and was a key ingredient in holy anointing oil of Moses and the christening oil of Jesus Christ, according to testimony and court documents.

The Shoops’ attorneys also argued that they were protected by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment because their religion mandates the cultivation and consumption of cannabis.

Baldwin County Assistant District Attorney Christopher Murray, however, successfully argued that while the Shoops may have believed marijuana was a key part of their relationship with God, they didn’t get involved with the church until after they were arrested.

“A belief under law is not a religion,” Murray said.

– Source: Virginia Bridges, Judge dismisses woman’s religious drug-use argument, The Press-Register, Alabama, USA, June 20, 2008

Generally, the ‘marijuana as a religious sacrament’ approach appears the have failed throughout the USA. See, for instance, these stories:

Judge Doesn’t Buy That Marijuana Is A ‘God-Given Right’
Church of Cognizance: Pot church takes a hit
LA minister guilty of distributing marijuana at church
Hawaii Supreme Court Rules Against Religious Marijuana Use

A website of the “Amsterdam Cannabis Ministry” has an article detailing the use of Marijuana in various religions. The website is part of the “The Amsterdam THC Ministry, First Universal Church of Kantheism” — operated, we understand, by an American.

Whether or not the ‘Church’ is run as a legitimate religion, Amsterdam — with the rest of the Netherlands — has always had a different approach to the use of soft drugs.

There are, however, some clouds on the horizon. The current government is top-heavy with “thou-shalt-not” type of ‘Christians’ (the same folks who, while raising their own monthly pay, have made it extremely difficult for poor people to continue receiving good healthcare). Naturally, they don’t like coffeeshops (the licensed establishments where people can legally buy and use soft drugs, coffee included)

Another cloud — a disappearing one, if you will — is the upcoming smoking ban which will affect the coffeeshops as well. Curiously, this will result in a situation where, from July 1, 2008, joints smoked in coffeeshops may no longer included any tobacco, but may only contain pure marijuana.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday June 24, 2008.
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