By Ed Wenck
Photos by Michelle Craig
The headlines are tremendous:
This Guy Just Used The Indiana Religious Freedom Law To Open A Church Of Cannabis — The Libertarian Republic
Indiana’s Church of Cannabis Growing Like a Weed — U.S. News and World Report
Whoops: Indiana’s anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ act opens the door for the First Church of Cannabis — Raw Story
And most of the stories in print and online include the mug of a dude most Indy residents probably recognize: pot activist and sometime-political candidate Bill Levin. Levin’s shock of white hair and joyfully craggy face first went nationally viral with his City-County Council campaign ad in 2011, a commercial that closed with Bill’s signature tagline:
Levin’s now founded the First Church of Cannabis — it’s one of those unintended consequences of Indiana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law that was eventually “clarified” by the legislature after a massive backlash. Opponents said RFRA was primarily intended to allow businesses to discriminate against a single class of Hoosiers who aren’t protected under Indiana’s broader civil rights statutes: LGBTQ citizens.
Ironically, the Federal version of RFRA in part stemmed from the use of a controlled substance by two Native Americans. The pair were denied unemployment compensation after being fired from their jobs for testing positive for the psychoactive components in peyote, a drug they used in religious ceremonies.
Levin decided to found his church the very day Gov. Mike Pence signed Indiana’s RFRA into law. As theWashington Post reported on March 30, ” Secretary of State Connie Lawson approved the church as a religious corporation with the stated intent ‘to start a church based on love and understanding with compassion for all.'”