SALT LAKE CITY — The leader of an American Indian church and his wife claim in a lawsuit that authorities tried to prevent them from practicing their religion by prosecuting the couple for consuming and distributing peyote.
James "Flaming Eagle" Mooney, 62, and Linda Mooney, 52, leaders of the Oklevueha Earth Walks Native American Church of Utah, have successfully fought charges involving their use of peyote.
The most recent charges were dropped in February after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an unrelated case involving a hallucinogenic tea that the government cannot hinder religious practices without proof of a "compelling" need to do so. That case was Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal.
The Mooneys' federal lawsuit, filed on May 16, claims that their First Amendment rights were violated. They are seeking unspecified damages and court fees from the federal, state and local governments.
"Again, it is amazing that we have been forced to this extreme just so we can worship in our Native American Church," Mooney said on May 17.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office said lawyers were reviewing the Mooneys' complaint.