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The Supreme Court's Decision

Published Decision of the United States Supreme Court

On February 21st, 2006 the United States Supreme Court of the United States issued a unanimous decision affirming Religious Liberty in the case of Gonzales vs. O Centro Espirita Beneficente União do Vegetal.

In writing for the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts affirmed: "For the past 35 years, there has been a regulatory exemption for use of peyote a Schedule I substance by the Native American Church ...In 1994, Congress extended that exemption to all members of every recognized Indian Tribe... Everything the Government says about the DMT in hoasca that, as a Schedule I substance, Congress has determined that it 'has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use,and has a lack of accepted safety for use ... under medical supervision,' ... applies in equal measure to the mescaline in peyote, yet both the Executive and Congress itself have decreed an exception from the Controlled Substances Act for Native American religious use of peyote. If such use is permitted in the face of the congressional findings in 812(b)(1) for hundreds of thousands of Native Americans practicing their faith, it is difficult to see how those same findings alone can preclude any consideration of a similar exception for the 130 or so American members of the UDV who want to practice theirs...The Government's argument echoes the classic rejoinder of bureaucrats throughout history: If I make an exception for you, I'll have to make one for everybody, so no exceptions. But RFRA operates by mandating consideration, under the compelling interest test, of exceptions to 'rule[s] of general applicability'. Congress determined that the legislated test 'is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing prior governmental interests.'"

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