Oklevucha Native American Church Appeals to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for Ceremonial use of Cannabis

By Thomas

I met yesterday in Honolulu with Micheal Rex “Raging Bear” Mooney the Medicine Man for the Oklevucha Native American Church of Hawaii, and his attorney Michael Glenn.

Raging Bear and the Oklevucha Native American Church of Hawaii decided to take an offensive posture instead of the usual defensive strategies we have seen here in Hawaii in the past when the federal government seized the church’s sacramental cannabis.

Raging Bear and the Oklevucha Native American Church of Hawaii filed a civil suit in federal district court in the District of Hawaii in July of 2009. The suit seeks injunctive and declaratory relief as well as the return of about one pound of cannabis that had been seized from the church by federal agents.

The defendants include DEA administrator Michele Leonhhart and US Attorney General Eric Holder who fought to keep the case from going to trial. Defendants DEA/U.S. AG Holder filed three motions to dismiss the case. The DEA also well after the lawsuit had been filed destroyed the cannabis.

Federal District Judge Susan Mollway heard and dismissed the case, ruling the government’s prohibition and seizure of the churches cannabis did not present an actual controversy that was ripe for review. The judge also ruled she could not order the government to replace the cannabis they destroyed with a similar quantity of cannabis, because ” the differences in potency and desirability of various cannabis (sounds like she has smoked some herself) would make awarding substitute cannabis unfeasible”.

What? In other words she said the government should give the cannabis back or replace it but they can’t figure out how to do it. Raging Bear and the Oklevucha Native American Church of Hawaii appealed the decision last week to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in their effort to require the DEA and U.S. Attorney General to protect and preserve their right to use cannabis in traditional religious ritual for spiritual purposes.

Cannabis historically known among North American tribes as Rosa Maria (or Santa Maria) is used by members of the Oklevucha Native American Church in addition to their religious use of peyote. The plaintiffs argue the churches non drug use of this otherwise prohibited herb must be respected, as codified by the American Indian Religious freedom act (42 USC – 1996), which requires the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise their traditional religions, including but not limited to use and possession of sacred substances, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites.

It gets even more interesting in that Micheal Rex “Raging Bear” Mooney is the son of James “Flaming Eagle” Mooney’ who is also suing the federal government in another religious freedom case on the mainland for the right of non Native American members of the church to use peyote also. Raging Bear’s grandfather, Flaming Eagle’s father was also a Native American “medicine man” this is a calling and tradition that has run in the family for generations.

The Mooney’s have chosen to be proactive.

AP article on James “Flaming Eagle” Mooney’s lawsuit.

American Indian church sues feds over peyote use
JENNIFER DOBNER Associated Press
September 16, 2010

http://www.fox13now.com/news/local/kstu-ap-american-indian-church-sues-feds-over-peyote-use,0,2016987.story

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An American Indian church is suing state and federal police and prosecutors over the right of its members to use peyote in religious ceremonies, even if they are not of Indian ancestry.

The lawsuit seeks to block state and federal law enforcement from arresting or bringing criminal charges against church members who “fear reprisal from both state and federal governments for openly practicing their religion,” court papers state.

Those cases include the 2000 prosecution of medicine man James “Flaming Eagle” Mooney on multiple felony charges, including drug possession and distribution for giving peyote to church members and others during religious ceremonies.

Mooney’s conviction was thrown out by the Utah Supreme Court on appeal. The ruling from justices said an exemption in federal law that allows for peyote use should include all church members regardless of the arbitrary “blood quantum” standard — the primary basis for determining who is a protected American Indian religious practitioner, the lawsuit states.

“It is time that such a basis be abolished in favor of extending full religious freedom and protection to the NAC as a broader based, American religious choice,” attorneys for the Oklevueha wrote in court papers.

This is from the Oklevucha Native American Church web site.

http://www.nativeamericanchurch.net/Native_American_Church/NATIVE_AMERICAN_CHURCH.html

The Native American Church represents North and South American indigenous earth based healing spiritual beliefs and practices.

America’s indigenous spirituality was first congressionally recognized and signed into law, Dawes Act 1876, by United States President Grant. In 1918, a committee of Oklahoma federally recognized American Native Spiritual leaders, with the assistance of James Mooney writing the By-Laws, Incorporated the Native American Church.

The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA), 42 U.S.C. 1978, August 11, 1978, was signed into law by

President Carter and finally with the Amendment to AIRFA,

the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of

2000, signed by President Clinton gives the clear and concise understanding that the Native American Church had been mandated to receive all the protections and rights of the First Amendment since 1918.

We welcome you to experience the spiritual healing powers of our American Native ceremonial heritage.

A Brief History of the Native American Church
by Jay Fikes

http://csp.org/communities/docs/fikes-nac_history.html

American Indian Religious Freedom Act

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Indian_Religious_Freedom_Act

http://hawaiinewsdaily.com/2010/12/03/oklevucha-native-american-church-appeals-to-the-9th-circuit-court-of-appeals-for-ceremonial-use-of-cannabis/