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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

Religion and the State: Essays in Honor of Leo Pfeffer.

Wood, James E., Jr. (Editor) (1985).
Waco, TX: Baylor University Press.

ISBN: 0-918954-29-0

Description: Hardcover, xii + 596 pages.

Contents: Preface, 21 unnumbered chapters divided into 9 parts: Part 1. No Establishment of Religion and the Free Exercise of Religion, Part 2. The Right of Voluntary Association, Part 3. The Right of Religious Dissent, Part 4. Government Chaplaincies and Military Conscription, Part. 5. Religion and Public Education, Part 6. Religion and Taxation, Part 7. Religion and Politics, Part 8. Religion and World Order, part 9: Leo Pfeffer; contributors, index.

Contributors: James C. Carper, Neal Devins, David Fellman, Ronald B. Flowers, Edwin Scott Gaustad, Kent Greenawalt, A. E. Dick Howard, Dean M. Kelley, Milton R. Konvitz, Samuel Krislov, Leonard W. Levy, Sidney Liskofsky, Franklin H. Littell, David Little, Freda Pfeffer, Leo Pfeffer, Richard V. Pierard, Norman Redlich, John M. Swomley, James E. Wood, Jr., Sharon L. Worthing.

Excerpt(s): When the state forbids the use of a substance like marijuana, should any class of potential users be afforded an exemption? A class defined in terms of conscientious objection would be inapt. No one is likely to believe that he is under an absolute duty to ingest a particular substances ... Perhaps a more promising class for an exemption would be persons who believe that marijuana use produces deep insights about ultimate truths. Just what sort of insights would be reached, however, and how unique would marijuana use have to be regarded as a source of truth for a claimant to be exempted? So long as the focus remains on individual reasons for personal use, the difficulties of categorization appear insurmountable, even in theory. When one asks how any such an exemption would be administered, he realizes that any attempted application of some amorphous standard to individual cases would work serious injustice and would quickly undermine the efficacy of the general prohibition. This latter result may not disturb those critical of the law's existence, but it will hardly commend itself to legislators persuaded that a broad prohibition is desirable.

Any feasible exemption would need to be cast in terms of specialized use. One such use is medical. For that, objective requisites would suffice; a person whose physical condition qualified him would not also need to have a particular moral view about the necessity of the drug's use. Another specialized use is in the context of religious services. An exemption that reaches persons who use drugs in corporate religious services, but does not cover either nonreligious group use or individual religious use, can be defended. One argument for distinguishing religious from nonreligious use is that a person who thinks he needs a drug to maintain a connection with a transcendent being, or to understand ultimate reality, makes a claim to use that is of a different dimension from the claim of a person who seeks pleasure, or personal adjustment, or even generally enhanced perception. Accompanying the basic claim that access to higher reality is simply a more a compelling interest is a related point about the inappropriateness of government determination, even by indirection, of how people seek such reality. Of course, the state should generally be hesitant to cut people off from what they perceive to be the sources of happiness and fulfillment, and occasionally it must prohibit extremely self-destructive acts that participants believe bear a close connection to higher reality. Still, the point remains that among paternalistic exercises the state should be particularly wary of limiting the search for a higher reality and the maintenance of perceived connections with that reality.

A second argument for excluding nonreligious use from an exemption concerns administrability, and that argument also supports the distinction between corporate religious use and individual use. Were it granted that some nonreligious persons had reasons for use as compelling as those engaged in religious use, still, separating use for pleasure from use for deep insight or some other compelling purpose would be too difficult. An administratable exemption could not go beyond religious use. Further, given the impossibility of assessing individual claims that purely personal religious pursuit leads to marijuana use, exempted religious use must be corporate, or at least closely tied to corporate religious practices. If the general desire to use a drug is widespread, and serious enforcement efforts support a legislative prohibition, claims based on corporate religious practices will have to be reviewed with some stringency, so that groups of drug users will not succeed by creating bogus religions to cover their use. Once the genuineness of the religion and an individual user's bona fide membership in the religious community were established, no further inquiry would be called for into his particular convictions about the use of marijuana. (Kent Greenawalt, "Conscientious Objection and the Liberal State," pages 268-270)

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