Native American Church (NAC)
15 Oct 1992 21:25:44

>Reproduced without permission from the AMERICAN INDIAN FREEDOM OF RELIGION
INFORMATION PACKET ($5.00), published by: Support For Native Sovereignty,
P.O.Box 2104, Seattle, WA 98101.


Prepared by Jay Courtney Fikes, Ph.D.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil
is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke


The Native American Church is the largest indigenous religion in this
country. Estimates range to a quarter of a million members. Indigenous
people have treated the peyote cactus as a sacrament for at least 10,000 years
in Mexico, and at least 7,000 years in the United States. The Native American
Church (NAC) is the modern embodiment of this ancient religious way of life.
The NAC is in a crisis situation. Its legal existence is jeopardized.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1990 ruled in EMPLOYMENT DIVISION OF OREGON V. SMITH
(493 U.S. 378) that the First Amendment does not protect the ritual life of
this church (i.e., the sacramental use of peyote).
There is no record of danger or harm associated with the religious
practices of the NAC. The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the NAC
work cooperatively in protecting the distribution and use of peyote.
Yet, since the SMITH decision, NAC members have been unnecessarily
hindered in the exercise of their religion by the removal of the
constitutional underpinning that had protected them. Indeed, at least one NAC
member is currently being prosecuted for a felony for practicing what earlier
courts had held was a constitutionally protected religion.
For these reasons a coalition of NAC leaders, advocates and supporters
from around the country are asking Congress to put back what the Supreme Court
took away by amending the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 to
create a specific federal statutory exemption for the BONA FIDE religious use
of peyote by Indian people in the traditional exercise of their religion.


Reuben A. Snake, Jr., Coordinator
Native American Religious Freedom Project
2329 Calle Luminoso
Sante Fe, New Mexico 87505
505 988-6431

Jay C. Fikes, Ph.D.
Smithsonian Institution Post-doctoral Fellow
4023 Peppertree Lane
Silver Spring, MD 20906-2586
301 460-7907

James Botsford, Director
Indian Law Office
P.O. Box 6100
Wausau, WI 54402
715 842-1681

Walter Echo-Hawk, Senior Attorney
Native American Rights Fund
1506 Broadway
Boulder, CO 80302
303 447-8760

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