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Utah couple sues over charges involving religious peyote use

By The Associated Press
05.21.06

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.


Update
Utah religious-peyote lawsuit dismissed
Federal judge rules that couple, leaders of Oklevueha Earth Walks Native American Church of Utah, have no basis to sue over drug prosecutions. 12.11.06

Previous
Non-Native Americans OK'd for ceremonial peyote
Utah Supreme Court finds use of hallucinogenic drug limited to bona fide religious rituals part of Native American Church. 06.24.04

Related

High court backs church in dispute over hallucinogenic tea

Unanimous ruling finds Bush administration hadn't met burden to show that it could ban 'sect's sincere religious practice.' 02.21.06

Religious liberty gets boost in hallucinogenic-tea case
By Tony Mauro Chief justice's maiden First Amendment opinion is clear victory for free-exercise clause. 02.22.06

Religious freedom: inherent right or gift of the state?
By Charles C. Haynes Supreme Court decision upholding church's right to use hallucinogenic tea should have been decided under First Amendment's free-exercise clause. 03.05.06

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