June 3, 2015

The intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana was to allow the free exercise of 'religious freedom,' which was highly contested and revised due to public outcry. That's because the bill was viewed as a license to discriminate against homosexuality. But this religious freedom act opened Indiana up for other churches, some being rather unorthodox.

The IRS has incorporated an Indianapolis marijuana-smoking church as a tax-exempt religious organization.

Bill Levin, founder of the First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis, was notified of the approval last week, which will now allow donors to deduct contributions on their taxes, the CNHI (Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.) Indiana Statehouse Bureau reported Saturday. IRS documents provided by Mr. Levin confirmed the agency’s approval, CNHI said.

Credit: NY Daily News
Levin's proposal for this church dedicated to the benefits of the cannabis plant is rather refreshing, in my opinion.

“The bibles of other religions are yesteryear about the drinking out of goat skins. That doesn’t relate to people with GPS in their hand and 7,000 tunes in that same hand,” he said. “The church is very simple. The first good book we’re going to ask parishioners to read and understand is ‘The Emperor Wears No Clothes.'”

Levin, the owner of a marketing and consulting firm called Levin Consulting says he is not religious.

“I’m very faith-driven, I’m very spiritual and I’m filled with love,” he said. “I find that most religions are misled into gross perversions of what they are meant to be. This path has led me to lead a religion that people in today’s world can relate to it. We don’t have any guilt doctrine built in. We don’t have any sin built in.”

He certainly figured out how to get around the fact that marijuana is illegal in the state of Indiana. Mike Pence is extremely anti-legalization, so the acceptance of the 'church' as a tax exempt religious entity is most likely off-putting to the Republican Indiana Governor. Levin used the same provisions under the law, that were likely designed to allow discrimination, to permit 'the worship' of a substance that is illegal in Indiana.

"You see, if I would argue that under RFRA, as long as you can show that reefer is part of your religious practices, you got a pretty good shot of getting off scott-free,” he wrote. “Remember, under RFRA, the state has to articulate a compelling interest in preventing you from smoking pot. I argue they can’t.”

There are plenty of supporters of this new church.

So far, more than 600 members have paid amounts ranging from $4.20 to $1,000 to join the church, Mr. Levin said. Fundraising is being conducted partly on gofundme.com, where the church has raised over $10,800.

The church’s first service is scheduled for July 1 — the day the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act goes into effect.

The church will grow hemp, but will not buy or sell marijuana. Levin also hopes to conduct other beneficial services such as heroin addiction treatment and alcoholics anonymous.

"If someone is smoking in our church, God bless them,” Levin said. “This is a church to show a proper way of life, a loving way to live life. We are called ‘cannataerians.'”

This should be pretty interesting. I don't think Governor Pence wants to attract any more negative attention after his RFRA firestorm. We'll see how he handles this affront to his GOP fundamentalist base.

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