The briefs have now been submitted in the case now captioned Gonzales v. O Centro Espirito, involving the question of whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the ritual use a psychoactive “tea” (called, generically, ayahuasca) by the American branch of a Brazilian church called the União do Vegetal, or UdV.
The current legal position is that the District Court for New Mexico issued a preliminary injunction ordering the government to keep its hands off the curch’s worship and to allow the church to import its sacramental tea; the 10th Circuit affirmed, both as a panel and en banc; and the Supreme Court has taken cert. The preliminary injunction was stayed during the pendency of the appellate case, and that stay was briefly extended by Justice Breyer. Since that stay was lifted in December, the injunction has been in effect and the church has been importing tea and using it in worship, reportedly without incident.
My role as a witness precludes my making any comment. But I’m posting four of the briefs: one for the government, one for the church, an amicus brief for a group of distinguished scholars of religion organized by the Council on Spiritual Practices, and another amicus for a high-powered group of psychopharmacologists and drug policy experts, organized by Robert Gable. If you spot an issue or know a fact that might help the church, please let me know and I’ll pass it along.