Sane people across the country were righteously pissed when Justice Alito enthusiastically used Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius to toss a steaming turd of a majority opinion into the calm pool of free exercise precedent. That case saw the legal recognition of a corporation’s right to freely exercise sincerely held religious beliefs (such as Hobby Lobby’s sanctified tax evasion). The broad, and embarrassingly myopic logic in the majority opinion presented a serious problem, one Justice Scalia (a member of the majority himself) warned about in his Oregon v. Smith decision, saying that:
“we have never held….that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate”
Nino Scalia might be a chuckling fascist but his argument in that case was relatively sound. The free exercise clause of the 1st Amendment was never meant to serve as a get-out-of-jail-free card for people who are too demure to use the sovereign citizen defense or not cool enough to succeed at jury nullification. However in the post-Citizens United/Hobby Lobby world, where corporations can have bat mitzvahs and your boss can determine how you regulate your period, it was only a matter of time before your friendly local stoners or swingers figured out how best to exploit this holiest of loopholes.
Last month saw cannabis advocate and teen heartthrob Bill Levine challenging the extent of Indiana’s Hobby Lobby inspired “religious freedom” law by opening a legally protected weed church in that state. In interviews Levine expressed his displeasure with the law itself (which was passed clearly to legalize forms of previously prohibited discrimination), while emphasizing his desire to more or less troll State officials. “Of course I’m going to test this law. I’m not going to test it, I’m going to beat it.”
The “Church of Cannabis” can now boast over 30,000 members on Facebook, and has coined the term “Cannabitarian.” Interestingly the first commandment of this new faith is “don’t be an asshole,” a fact that could potentially provoke a schism between church leadership and the religion’s adherents who write on the internet or practice law.
But while Levine succeeded in drawing attention to the absurdity behind this new push for religious exemptions in civil law, he has yet to set up shop and horrify his square neighbors with his cool new faith. The same however cannot be said about the swinger community consecrating their decidedly old testament view on non-monogamy balls deep into suburban Nashville’s mega-church district.
Thanks to commercial sprawl taking away their parking lot, the folks at “The Social Club” were forced out of their downtown location and into a delightful neighborhood next door to “Goodpasture Christian School” and “New Jerusalem Baptist Church.” Shockingly the authorities at both established religious institutions were rather upset that they were sharing a postal route with a sex club. However thanks to Samuel Alito, zoning challenges to The Social Club’s relocation immediately went flaccid once the club’s lawyers re-christened the boomer fuck palace as the “United Fellowship Center,” ie. a church where you can be fluid bonded with the lord.
The lame neighbors from the traditional religions, who are concerned with both the “curiosity” of their parishioners (seriously) and that whole eternal damnation thing, have vowed to “exhaust every resource to stop this project”. But ironically because the Supreme Court doesn’t understand how birth control works, there seems to be little that opponents of this Vatican of voyeurism can do to stop consenting adults from having their spiritual voids filled by their friends and neighbors (at the same time). So as more and more visitors come to the United Fellowship Center to get their biblical knowledge on, they can thank a robed Opus Dei member with an expansive knowledge of crush porn for facilitating their apostle-themed gangbang.
Sure it’s absurd to call these fine institutions “churches.” However, the members of Levine’s weed church and the folks at Nashville’s backdoor basilica have sincerely held beliefs, and their practices don’t involve forcing employees to endure endometriosis after depriving them of birth control. Broad religious exemptions to legitimate regulations are inherently silly, and the lawyers assisting our beloved stoners and swingers in exploiting this dumb interpretation of the exercise clause are truly the ones doing God’s work.