Indiana’s new “religious freedom” law has lighted up plans for a new church in Indianapolis.
The Secretary of State’s office last week approved Bill Levin’s church, the First Church of Cannabis, as a “religious corporation.” Levin says he filed the paperwork as a direct challenge to Indiana’s “religious freedom” legislation.
"This is a religion about celebrating life," says Levin. "It's based on love, equal love for everybody."
The doctrine of the First Church of Cannabis lists marijuana as a sacrament with healing and uniting powers. But because marijuana is illegal in Indiana – both for medicinal and recreational use – it could present a test case for the law.
Under that law, the state is prevented from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion unless it can prove that it has a compelling interest to do so, and is doing so in the least restrictive way.
Levin, a longtime advocate for reforming Indiana’s marijuana laws, says the church will not purchase, distribute or supply illegal substances. But parishioners, who are called cannabetaerians, will be encouraged to partake.