If you get caught by police with pot on you in Indiana, just say it's part of your religion.
Confused? Let me explain.
Last week, Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law.
The new law generated immediate backlash, however, as it's been viewed as an inherently discriminatory piece of legislation. It allows business owners to deny service to customers on religious grounds.
The general perception is that the law permits bigotry against a number of groups, particularly the LGBT community.
Politicians, celebrities, athletes and CEOs alike have publicly decried the RFRA, and Indiana has received a lot of bad press in the process.
When new laws turn back the clock on progress, we can't sit idly by. We are sending a message that discrimination won't be tolerated. -DM — Governor Dan Malloy (@GovMalloyOffice) March 30, 2015
pic.twitter.com/21LwD5Ie72 — Reggie Miller (@ReggieMillerTNT) March 27, 2015
Outraged over Indiana Freedom to Discriminate law, signed today. LGBTs aren't 2nd class citizens. #BoycottIndiana #Pence — George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) March 26, 2015
Apple is open for everyone. We are deeply disappointed in Indiana's new law and calling on Arkansas Gov. to veto the similar #HB1228. — Tim Cook (@tim_cook) March 27, 2015
This is precisely why lawmakers in the state seek to "clarify" its language. What that means remains to be seen.
In the meantime, the law is also having other ramifications that were likely not planned whatsoever: legal marijuana smoking.
After the RFRA was passed, The First Church of Cannabis Inc. was approved by Indiana's secretary of state, Washington Post reports.
As its title suggests, smoking marijuana is the sacrament, or central tenet, of this church. While pot remains illegal in Indiana, the language of the RFRA might force the state to permit the church's use of it.
The church's founder, Bill Levin, told the Washington Post he filed the paperwork to found the church in direct response to Gov. Pence's new law.
Unsurprisingly, the First Church of Cannabis Inc. is a very laid-back and open-minded place.
It was established upon 12 main principles, the first of which is, "Don't be an assh*le. Treat everyone with love as an equal."
Needless to say, this community of cannabis enthusiasts is vehemently against the RFRA and preaches acceptance.
In many ways, Levin's church is similar to Rastafarianism, the religion of Bob Marley, in that both fervently promote the use of marijuana.
The primary difference between the two is the fact that the First Church of Cannabis Inc. doesn't worship any particular God.
Speaking with Huffington Post, Levin stated:
It has nothing to do with God; I don't have the balls to describe a god to anybody. This is a god-filled or godless religion -- it's entirely up to you. ...The state will not interfere with religious belief -- well buddy, my religious belief is green with red hairs, and boy do I like to smoke it.
Still, it's probably safe to say Mr. Marley would've approved of Levin's church as it's a direct slap in the face to a philosophy of intolerance.
Bob Marley was all about solidarity and "one love," and it's no secret he was a huge proponent of marijuana, or what he referred to as "herb."
If he was still alive today, Marley would likely condemn the RFRA and join Bill Levin for a bit of "sacrament" in the process.
If Rastafarians living in Indiana wish to practice their religion (smoke weed), it seems it will also be permitted under the RFRA.
Other faiths and groups that use illicit substances during rituals might also be permitted to do so, such as peyote in the case of Native Americans.
So, in a broad sense, it's true Indiana's new law protects the religious freedom of all faiths, which is why Levin's church can now exist.
The caveat, however, is that it also condones prejudice, particularly against the LGBT community.
Business owners in the state can close their doors to anyone who purportedly offends their faith.
Translation: If a same-sex couple walks into an Indiana restaurant and the owner is anti-gay, religion can be used as justification for kicking them out.
From this perspective, the law permits intolerance and segregation, which is why some have likened it to Jim Crow.
Indiana lawmakers have signified they have no intention of repealing the law.
As they strive to rework its language, however, let's hope they ensure no group can be discriminated against on religious grounds.
In both a philosophical sense and under the Constitution, religious freedom is meant to prevent intolerance. The RFRA walks a very dangerous line in which the exact opposite can occur.
Citations: Ind to clarifyu2019new law decried as anti gay (Washington Post), Indianas New Religious Freedom Law May Have Unintended Consequences Including Legal Weed Smoking (Vice News), Church Of Marijuana Gets Boost From Indianas Anti Gay Religious Freedom Bill (Huffington Post), The First Church of Cannabis was approved after Indianas religious freedom law was passed (Washington Post), What Makes Indianas Religious Freedom Law Different (The Atlantic )