On November 25th, 2021, the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines has released its Guide to RFRA and Best Practices for Psychedelic Plant Medicine Churches. This Guide is a comprehensive resource on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and how a church using psychedelic plant medicine as sacrament can be informed by the law in terms of its operation and establishing its rights under RFRA. Chacruna is releasing this Guide for free to the public, recognizing the need of psychedelic plant medicine church communities in the United States for organized and clear information.
“There are hundreds of sincere and legitimate plant medicine communities operating in the United States living under uncertain conditions,” said Bia Labate, Ph.D., Chacruna’s Executive Director. “This Guide teaches communities to learn about their rights, and how to better protect themselves. When we talk about religious liberty, we are also talking about responsibilities. If we have rights, we also have obligations! This Guide provides instructions on how to better follow legal requirements and protocols, including everything from the big picture to small details. It is a must-read for every single sincere practitioner in this country.”
By reading the Guide’s explanation of the RFRA test, applicable laws, government criteria, and the history of previous court and government agency decisions and analysis, a psychedelic plant medicine church can make informed decisions in how it articulates its sincere religious beliefs and operates.
“This Guide is written to simply explain the laws and basic information needed by a psychedelic plant medicine church to make informed decisions and understand its rights and risks by operating in the United States,” said Allison Hoots, Esq., member of Chacruna’s Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants. “We believe that information is power, and it is this Guide’s intent to empower psychedelic plant medicine churches with sincerely held religious beliefs. An understanding of the law and legal decisions relating to RFRA gives crucial context to navigating the right to religious exercise.”
While RFRA provides mechanisms to protect sincere religious exercise, churches using psychedelic plant medicines are not exempt from criminal prosecution simply because they claim religious use. “The psychedelic renaissance is expanding rapidly, but the law moves slowly. In the time it will take to fully decriminalize and ultimately legalize plant medicine, practitioners are at risk due to outdated, limited, and ignorant laws that criminalize natural medicines or sacraments,” said Sean McAllister, Esq., member of Chacruna’s Board of Directors. “In my law practice, I see many people operating under urban myths around plant sacrament legality. This Guide provides a clear presentation of the actual legal issues around plant sacrament use.”
The Guide contains basic but essential information, such as how RFRA case law frames decisions relating to incorporation, tax-exempt status, pre-screening procedures, limiting liability, emergency procedures, selection of a name, advertising, sacrament issues, and other aspects of operation. While every psychedelic plant medicine church should make legal choices and establish procedures based on their own religious beliefs and with legal counsel, this Guide brings into focus where such decisions may be scrutinized when asserting the right to religious exercise under RFRA.
“It is essential for the safe and free religious practice of psychedelic plant medicine churches that they have access to reliable information on best practices for operating their communities as legal organizations in the United States. The Guide is an educational deep-dive into the legal case law that can show churches what they already are doing well, and what blind spots they may have about their organizational structure and operations,” said Brian Anderson, M.D., member of Chacruna’s Board of Directors.
The Guide’s overview of RFRA cases and operational concerns is accessible to practitioners and attorneys alike, explaining the uncertain landscape of protection of religious exercise with psychedelic plant medicines.
Chacruna is proud to present the Guide so that psychedelic plant medicine churches can use this crucial information at a time when such religious use is both burdened by government laws and actions and being recognized more widely and publicly as a practice with integrity. “This immense effort of the Guide underscores Chacruna’s commitment to empowering the wellbeing of the psychedelic plant medicine church community,” said Robert Heffernan, Program Director of Chacruna’s Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants.
On December 15, 2021, at 12pm PT/3pm ET, Chacruna is hosting “Protecting Sincere Psychedelic Churches: Chacruna’s Guide to the Law and Best Practices,” an online launch event for the Guide with a panel of representatives with experience with these specific issues, including Bia Labate, Allison Hoots, Jack Silver, Mason Marks, and Vicki Kraft. Mark your calendar and join Chacruna and this fantastic panel to launch the Guide to RFRA and Best Practices for Psychedelic Plant Medicine Churches.
About Chacruna Institute
The Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, an organization co-founded by Brazilian anthropologist Dr. Bia Labate and American psychologist Dr. Clancy Cavnar, produces high-quality research on plant medicines and psychedelics and helps propagate academic knowledge in more accessible formats. We educate the public and create cultural understanding and legitimacy regarding these substances so that they may cease to be stigmatized and outlawed. Chacruna also promotes a bridge between the world of plant medicines and the emergent field of psychedelic science, between “traditional ceremonial use” and clinical and therapeutic settings, bringing the knowledge and perspectives of the social sciences to health care professionals and practitioners of psychedelic-assisted therapy. Finally, we foster cultural and political reflections on the field of psychedelic science and facilitate conversations about controversial topics that have been simmering on the sidelines as psychedelics go mainstream.
About the Guide
This Guide gives psychedelic plant medicines churches using sacrament in religious exercise in the United States the knowledge to understand the mechanisms through which protection is offered under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). While RFRA automatically provides protection for sincere religious exercise, not every church using psychedelic plant medicines will be exempt from criminal prosecution simply because they claim religious use. The Guide explains the balancing test under RFRA, which applies scrutiny to the whole of a church’s religious beliefs, spiritual practices, and sincerity—but where the government’s interests in prohibiting this use will be scrutinized, as well. The Guide uses its overview of the law and RFRA test to frame how psychedelic plant medicine churches can make informed decisions about incorporation, tax-exempt status, pre-screening procedures, limiting liability, and other aspects of operation. While every psychedelic plant medicine church should make legal choices and establish procedures based on their own religious beliefs and with legal counsel, this Guide brings into focus where such decisions may be scrutinized when asserting the right to religious exercise under RFRA.
Download the guide here.
© Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines & Hoots, A. (2021). Guide to RFRA and Best Practices for Psychedelic Plant Medicine Churches. San Francisco, CA: Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines.
ISBN 979-8-9852933-3-3 .
Art by Trey Brasher.
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