Legal Thought Of The Day: No. 7

“After a lengthy bench trial at which defendants had ample opportunity to prove their RFRA claim, Judge Rapoport stated:

… I don’t know that there’s any burden on either of these defendants to prohibit them from practicing their religion[.] It just … prohibit[s] them from practicing it in the park because[,] under [the] code of federal regulation[s,] it’s clearly prohibited. What stops you from doing whatever you want to do in the privacy of home, with friends[?][N]othing. You know, if you’re that committed to practicing your religion[,] getting closer to God by using [the] marijuana [that] you call a sacrament, what stops you?….

…[T]o suggest that somehow your religion is seriously impeded because you can’t do it at Independence Park is simply an argument without any basis as far as I’m concerned.

“Gov’t App. 182-84. We read these statements as a factual finding that the regulatory prohibition on possessing marijuana in the Park does not substantially burden Forchion and Duff in the exercise of their Rastafarianism.”

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~ Judge Stewart Dalzell, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. United States v. Forchion, Not Reported in F.Supp.2d (2005) — rejecting Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion’s argument that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the use of marijuana on federally owned property, provided that it is used as part of a religious ceremony. Edits in original.

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3 Responses to Legal Thought Of The Day: No. 7

  1. Nik Varrone says:

    It almost seems like something came down from on high to get rid of this case. Simply letting them off the hook might have been a good strategy for the powers that be because if they had let the case go further up the chain it might have gotten some more serious attention from a real power and take the case all the way.

  2. Netterox says:

    What if it was a mix between Rastafarianism and Wiccan and it had to be done outside in connection with nature?

    I have to look this up to clarify, so don’t quote me, but I think the Ninth Circuit Appeals court, the federal Appeals court out west, has left open the question of whether there ought to be a religious use exception for personal use of marijuana for Rastafarians. See U.S. v. Bauer, 84 F.3d 1549 (9th Cir. 1996).

    In Forchion, however, the court sidestepped the question by asserting that the regulation at issue, the “prohibition on smoking marijuana in a public park“, did not impose a burden upon religion. Technically, this is correct, but I think that only infants, toddlers, and the brain-dead should be excused for failing to recognize that other laws actually prohibit marijuana use in the home as well.

    So to answer your question: The government will first attempt argue, with varying levels of slobbering idiocy, that it is not actually encroaching upon Freedom of Religion. Failing that, the government actually maintains a list of officially recognized religions. If your religion is not on that list, then your religion is not protected. I don’t know whether “a mix between Rastafarian and Wiccan” is on the list. If it is, then I think it is still an open question, whether you will receive protection in the 9th Circuit (out West).

    Here in the Third circuit, I think they’re smoking too much dope themselves to know what “Religious Liberty” is…..

    ~tg

  3. Netterox says:

    Or using too much cocaine and spending time drinking and driving…

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