Nov 2, 2005

Insomnia's a bitch ...

... but then again, I probably would have missed this one.

Newly minted Supreme Court Justice John Roberts was put to task today by fellow SCJ Sandra Day O'Connor in the first religious freedom case to be debated under the new Chief Justice's court. The case also called into speculation about how SC Nominee Sam "Don't Call Me Scalito" Alito would decide.

Seems like a group of 130 members of a Brazil-based church include the brewing and drinking of an herbal tea, hoasca, during their communion services. The tea is sacred to them, as they believe they can "understand God" only by drinking the tea.

Dubya and Crew say the tea - which contains a drug called DMT - is illegal. The members of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal consider the tea sacred.

Fifteen years ago, the SC ruled that states could criminalize the use of peyote by Native Americans, but Congress changed the law to allow it.

In a move we might never see for a while should Scalito become the newest SCJ, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor slammed Dubya and Crew's lawyer and challenged the administration's position. Even Roberts suggested that Dubya and Crew was being a little overbearing with their "zero tolerance approach." Hmm.

Other justices also seemed concerned by the government's claim that an exception could be made for peyote, but not for hoasca tea.

"That is a rather rough problem under the First Amendment," said Justice Stephen Breyer.

Hell, even Scalia The Elder said in his 1990 opinion on the peyote case called it "a demonstration you can make an exception without the sky falling."

There is a possibility that Scalito (yes, I know this is not his real name) could be called in to rule on this case, and if so, it will be interesting to see which way he'll go. His own precedents show that he is seemingly (and I use this term with the utmost skepticism) tolerant on religious issues - his 1999 opinion allowing Muslim police officers (good) and the permittance of a religiously diverse display on government property as long as it was balanced with non-religious icons, like say, Frosty the Snowman (slippery slope) make this a tough one to call.

This is just the calm before the storm ... bring me some of that tea, wouldja?

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No comments: