Original Photography by Pai Shih (Licensed, cropped from original)

Here are news items involving local government, religion, and land use that have caught our attention.

  • Religion Clause Blog reports that Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis is using the state’s recently enacted religious freedom law to protect its founder and two members from prosecution for possession of marijuana. The Church alleges that cannabis is the sacrament of the Church, and that laws punishing marijuana possession implicate its members’ religious exercise.  The Complaint in First Church of Cannabis, Inc. v. State of Indiana is available here.  The Indiana Star has more on this story, including a video clip of the Church’s service (notice the American flag next to the giant cannabis leaf).  The sanctuary of the Church includes a painting of two hands passing a joint, in the style of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.  Indiana University law professor David Orentlicher stated the following regarding the Church’s lawsuit: “Is this a genuine religion, or is it a pretext?  Because you can imagine, with anyone who’s using a controlled substance, we can’t let them all say, ‘it’s my religion.’  The court has to draw a line somewhere.”

Oklahoma is a state where we respect the rule of law, and we will not ignore the state courts or their decisions. However, we are also a state with three co-equal branches of government. At this time, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, with my support, has filed a petition requesting a rehearing of the Ten Commandments case. Additionally, our Legislature has signaled its support for pursuing changes to our state Constitution that will make it clear the Ten Commandments monument is legally permissible. If legislative efforts are successful, the people of Oklahoma will get to vote on the issue.

            The Governor’s full statement is available at Ok.gov.

  • Florida Today reports that a coalition of atheist, agnostic and humanist groups is suing Brevard County, Florida in federal court for refusing to allow religious non-believers the opportunity to offer a prayer before the start of County Commission meetings. The complaint, filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, is available here.  The plaintiffs contend that Brevard County’s policy violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Florida Constitution, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway.
  • Texas News reports that a West Texas County Clerk is refusing to issue marriage licenses for same sex couples following the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, and has issued a what she calls a “declaration” to “protect natural marriage from lawless court opinions.”