Native American Church members fight harassment by authorities


“Peyote Drummer,” photogravure, Edward Sheriff Curtis, 1927.

Editor's note: The Oklevueha Native American Church, or ONAC, is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the legal freedom to observe Native American spiritual traditions. Some of these involve sacramental or medicinal use of various plants: Peyote, Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Cannabis, Mushrooms and others. I am an ONAC member. While law varies state by state, those who grow or use these plants--Native Americans, or otherwise--risk arrest, property confiscation, legal harassment, and police abuse. One of ONAC's members in California was recently arrested, and his property confiscated, shortly after local law enforcement were notified they have no right to do these things. ONAC is holding a press conference today to announce their response. —Xeni Jardin

There will be a press conference today, 2 PM at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel in Santa Rosa California, at 170 Railroad Street.

Noted Constitutional and Civil Rights Lawyer Matt Pappas will be announcing lawsuits and other legal actions against a number of Law Enforcement and County officials and entities.

These legal actions have become necessary because of repeated abuses of power and evidence of collusion by these groups to deprive members of the Native American Church of their Native Ceremonies and Sacraments by raiding their sacred grounds, confiscating their objects of worship and destroying the sacraments and medicines.

All of these items are protected under the 1st, 4th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. These protections have repeatedly been upheld by numerous court cases around the country including the US Supreme Court, US District Courts and State Supreme Courts. Read the rest

Muslim flight attendant says she was suspended for refusing to serve alcohol


Religious freedom warrior Mike Huckabee is keeping curiously silent about the Muslim airline attendant suspended for refusing to serve alcohol as part of her job duties.

From CNN:

In a bid to get her job back, Charee Stanley filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday for the revocation of a reasonable religious accommodation.

She wants to do her job without serving alcohol in accordance with her Islamic faith -- just as she was doing before her suspension, her lawyer said.

"What this case comes down to is no one should have to choose between their career and religion and it's incumbent upon employers to provide a safe environment where employees can feel they can practice their religion freely," said Lena Masri, an attorney with Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Read the rest

Satanic Temple of Detroit celebrates unveiling of Baphomet statue


Members of the Satanic Temple of Detroit celebrated the unveiling of a $100,000, one-ton bronze Baphomet statue on Joseph Campau Avenue, while protestors show their disapproval by standing in the rain and holding up wordy banners. (They had earlier tried to block the doors to prevent people from exercising their freedom of religion but were moved away by authorities.)

Meanwhile, a warm and dry Satanist gave TV reporters a theatrical extemporaneous sermon:

"I’m so excited to see my Lord and Savior represented in such glorious Italian stone do hope his eyes gaze upon me and my allegiance is recognized. …The statue is a symbol for what they advocated the separation of church and state. You can’t have one without the other you know, like a mule carts God and the devil. A cloak of shame covers this man and only supreme light wash my body clean but how could that might possibly reach me with a thick clouds of indecency surrounding my poor soul so I carry my wrongdoings on my back like some kind of tormented hiker lost in the hills of misfortune looking desperately for that peak to rescue him from the valley of depraved habitual self pleasuring but again I find nothing except for sweaty devastated loneliness and a thousand judging eyes staring back at me from the cover of a stolen Victoria’s Secret catalog. I didn’t take your mail Mrs. Pemberton, stop asking me that. Satan's pretty cool!"

Read the rest

Texans threaten to cover land with pigs’ blood to block Muslim cemetery


A group of residents in Farmersville, Texas said they are prepared to put pigs' heads on spikes and pour pigs' blood on a plot of land where a Muslim cemetery will be established.

The members of the group say they object to the cemetery not because they hate Muslims, but because they will be poisoned if the cemetery becomes operational:

“When somebody dies they bury them at that time. They don’t know whether they were shot, diseased or anything else. All they do is wrap them in a sheet from the grave and bury them,” Troy Gosnell told the local CBS station.

Patricia Munroe voiced fears that local drinking water could be polluted.

“We used to grow onions here. We sure enough don’t want to be growing bodies,” said another resident, Mont Hendrick.

The Farmersville city council will meet and decide whether or not to move forward with the plan. Read the rest

Disney World decides to allow Sikh postman to deliver mail at resort


For seven year Disney World segregated postal carrier Gurdit Singh from visitors and other staff members because his facial hair and turban violated the resort's “Disney look” policy. But thanks to the efforts of the ACLU and the Sikh Coalition, Disney has decided its a small world, after all.

In a letter to Disney, Sikh Coalition and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the segregation relegated Singh to a mail route that had a greater workload than other routes.

It created animosity among his co-workers because he could not assist in operating other routes and it precluded his opportunities for professional advancement.

Following the intervention by Sikh Coalition and ACLU, Walt Disney World finally reversed its decision and granted Singh a religious accommodation.

Singh will no longer be kept hidden from public view of Disney visitors because of his turban and beard, and he will be permitted to run all mail routes just like every other mail carrier, Sikh Coalition said.

Read the rest

Holy smoke: IRS awards cannabis church tax-exempt status


The IRS has incorporated an Indianapolis marijuana-smoking church as a tax-exempt religious organization. Donors to the church can now deduct contributions on their taxes.

"We got the approval back in less than 30 days," said church founder Bill Levin. “Somebody at the IRS loves us."

Image: Shutterstock Read the rest

Photos of the new Satanic monument being built for Oklahoma's Statehouse

Jonathan Smith of Vice snapped some photos of the Satanic monument being built for the Oklahoma State house. Hurray for the First Amendment! Now I want to erect a giant Dobbshead there.

The statue is a direct response to the state's installation of a Ten Commandments monument outside the Capitol in 2012. State Representative Mike Ritze paid for the controversial statue with his own money, and therefore it was considered a donation and OK to place on government property. Following that line of reasoning, the Satanic Temple submitted a formal application for their monument.

I was offered an early peek at the work in progress by Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves. Greaves told me he has received numerous threats from people who want to attack the sculpture, but that he “wouldn’t expect these outraged and nearly insensible reactionaries to actually know how to assault a bronze monument without severely hurting themselves in the process.” Still, he’s not taking any chances. The Temple is building a mold of the sculpture so they can pop these things out like evil, terribly expensive action figures whenever they need a new one.

Photos of the new Satanic monument being built for Oklahoma's Statehouse Read the rest

China detains Tibetans returning from Buddhist festival, arrests devotee who sees vision of Dalai Lama in the Moon

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama speaks during a teaching session on the first day of the Kalachakra festival in the eastern Indian city of Bodhgaya January 1, 2012. The Kalachakra is a 10-day festival comprising Buddha teachings and meditations, taking place at Bodhgaya where Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash

Ed Wong in the New York Times writes about reports that hundreds of Tibetan Buddhists who attended the Kalachakra ceremony in January in India have been detained without charge by Chinese security officers upon returning to China-controlled Tibet.

This is the first time that the Chinese authorities have detained large numbers of Tibetan pilgrims returning from the ceremony, held regularly in India among other places. Many of the pilgrims are elderly and have been detained for more than two months in central Tibet, or what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region. The detainees are being interrogated and undergoing patriotic re-education classes, and have been ordered to denounce the Dalai Lama, who presided over the ceremony, known as the Kalachakra, say people who have researched the detentions. The detainees are being held at hotels, schools and military training centers or bases; some are being forced to pay for their lodging and meals.

Full story is here (via NgawangYonten).

Meanwhile, the desperate protest-suicides continue. 33 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest of Chinese rule since 2009, according to the Tibetan government in exile. And on April 8, a 26 year old Tibetan man in India jumped to his death in the river Ganges, a few days after texting to a friend, “It is my personal decision... Read the rest