Religious Freedom Laws Fail To Save Rastafarian Man Charged With Marijuana Possession


Religious freedom laws might have begun to boom as a response to marriage equality and health insurance plans, but it turns out that more and more groups and individuals are finding ways to apply them. In at least one case, though, religious freedom has been denied as a justification for breaking a law — specifically, possession of marijuana by a man who says it’s part of his Rastafarian religion.

At this point, religious freedom is being used as a justification for wriggling out from under a number of laws — bakeries and florists are attempting to use it to escape the requirements of nondiscrimination laws, colleges and craft shops are using it to get away with not providing comprehensive health insurance to their students and employees.

Now, though, more left-leaning citizens and groups are finding ways to incorporate religious freedom to fight back against laws that enforce discrimination and leave people in need without access to help. Perhaps the first exciting and well-noticed case was that of churches in North Carolina who, according to the Charlotte Post, filed a lawsuit against the state’s same-sex marriage ban, saying it violated their right to solemnize marriages for the lgbt members of their congregations.

We’ve seen religious freedom laws used as a defense from a woman who, according to MRC TV, violated the law by feeding homeless people in a Texas park. The Washington Post reports that there’s been a lawsuit brought by a woman who says abortion waiting periods violate her beliefs as a Satanist.

So far, we hadn’t had the opportunity to see any of these cases out — the North Carolina churches’ case became moot when NC legalized same-sex marriage, and the Satanist’s case is quite recent. The Texas case, of feeding homeless people, sees court in June.

An Indiana judge, however, has rejected religious freedom as a defense for possession and cultivation of marijuana, though. Unlike solemnization of same-sex marriages, and avoiding abortion restrictions, the connection of marijuana use to Rastafari is well-known and has a long history. Rastafari also holds more respect from the general public as a ‘real’ religion than Satanism.

Still, according to the Detroit Free Press, Rastafarian Jerome Scott’s plea for a lesser charge, based on his religious convictions, was denied, and the man was scolded by a judge for exposing children in the household to the practice of growing marijuana. In this case, religious freedom laws offered no aid.

Steph Bazzle
Steph Bazzle is a homeschooling mom who likes to write about justice, equality, and religious issues.

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