In 1990 the US Supreme Court case, Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, it was ruled that states held the authority to prohibit certain religious practices. Alfred Smith and Galen Black, Native American Church members, were denied unemployment compensation after being fired from their jobs as drug rehab counselors. The reason for their dismissal was their use of peyote. After rising to the Oregon State Supreme Court, in which Smith and Black were victorious, the case proceeded to the U.S. Supreme Court who remanded it back to the state. After Oregon again affirmed the men’s right to receive unemployment, the state requested an additional review from the U.S. Supreme Court. Once again it was ruled that the state held power in matters making certain religious practices illegal, as long as the law did not apply to a specific race or denomination. The fact that Oregon’s peyote prohibition was across the board for everyone meant that Smith and Black would not only be denied unemployment benefits, but also the free exercise of their religion.
To dig into the text of this volley of legal forensics can be so mind numbing it will make you feel sorry for lawyers. But the upshot is that the negative implications of the decision inspired a group of advocates from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds to lobby congress to draft and pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. An award winning documentary film, titled The Peyote Road, was created showcasing the activists’ and peyote people’s efforts at persuading congress to act in this effort. I thought to make this documentary available here.
FYI, in upcoming Peyote Lorax Podcast episodes we have some quality conversations in the works that will be uploaded in the very near future. I appreciate very much that the medicine has blessed our family by being in communication with such an outstanding collection of people who share a love of this medicine. Sharing their stories and experience with a larger listening audience is an idea whose time has come. It’s like I tell my kids from time to time- That’s why God made the internet. 🙄
Creator, thank you for the circle of relations you’ve blessed us to share life with. Let us help each other along our way on this peyote road. Bless and guide us, and let healing and love sweeten our fellowship.
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