The Church of Cannabis held its first service on Wednesday, further testing Indiana’s religious freedom laws in a state where recreational and medical use of the drug are prohibited.
Weed advocates founded the congregation in March in an effort to get marijuana legalized through the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, which allows defendants to use their religious beliefs as an excuse in legal proceedings.
“We’re building a church with the cornerstone of love, the way religions are supposed to be built,” Bill Levin, the church’s founder who is known as the “Grand Poobah and Minister of Love,” told US News and World Report
Levin admitted that the congregation is trying to test the RFRA.
“Of course I’m going to test this law. I’m not going to test it, I’m going to beat it,” the Libertarian who once ran for office said.
According to Levin, the lawmakers who wrote the RFRA are “clowns” who have “polluted and embarrassed” Indiana, according to The New York Times.
Levin led the Cannaterians, as the church’s followers call themselves, in his first sermon earlier this week that resembled both a church service and a dance party. The hymns ranged from the traditional Christian pick, “Amazing Grace,” to “Mary Jane,” a pop song glorifying weed, Time magazine reported
. Throughout the service, the Cannaterians danced down the aisles and smoked cigarettes and cigars. At one point, Levin instructed his followers to stand and say “I love you” five times.
“This is not just smoking pot and getting high. It’s about the birth of a new religion. I’m a smile harvester,” Levin said, according to The Times. The church is low-committal and requests only a $4.20 tithing per month.
On the day of the sermon, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police told the church that laws regarding marijuana were still intact. Officers stood at posts in close proximity to the church, warning that anyone lighting up would face criminal charges.
Members of the surrounding community protested outside of the sermon. Shari Logan, a 46-year old resident asked, “What’s next . . . The church of crack? The church of heroin? It’s a mockery to Christians, to God,” she told The New York Times.
“They’re using religion as a way to legalize their habit,” resident Sarah Taylor said as she watched the Cannaterians congregate from her yard.
“There was a little bit of intimidation about our religious beliefs,” Levin asserted is the real issue, according to The New York Times.
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