Author Topic: Peyote backer's lawsuit threat irks legislator  (Read 11055 times)

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Peyote backer's lawsuit threat irks legislator
« on: February 21, 2005, 10:18:45 pm »
Article Last Updated: 02/21/2005 01:27:39 AM  

Peyote backer's lawsuit threat irks legislator
The Associated Press

PROVO - The president of the state Senate is accusing a man who practices Native American religion of near-extortion for threatening to sue lawmakers who support a measure prohibiting his right to distribute peyote for ceremonies.
  A meeting including James "Flaming Eagle" Mooney and several Utah County lawmakers ended abruptly Saturday when he threatened litigation.
  "I will not stand and be threatened with a lawsuit for doing our job," said John Valentine, R-Orem, and president of the Utah Senate. "I am leaving, and I encourage all of my colleagues to do the same."
  Valentine said after the meeting that the threat "is probably over the line and possibly a criminal violation itself."
  "He's very close to the line of extortion - attempting to elicit a result from the Legislature by threats or intimidation," he said.
  Mooney won a decision in June from the Utah Supreme Court authorizing religious peyote use for any member of the Oklevueha Earthwalks Native American Church. As a result, state drug charges were   dropped against Mooney, who calls himself a medicine man and part American Indian.
  This session, Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield, is sponsoring a bill to amend Utah's Controlled Substances Act to make it illegal for people like Mooney to distribute peyote to non-American Indians.
  Oda said his bill will fill a loophole where Utah law does not properly align with federal law on peyote.
  "This was requested by the Attorney General's Office," he said. "The federal code already states that (peyote use) has to be for legally recognized Indian  


 tribes. Otherwise what you've got is a legal way for people to use dope."
  Oda said the requirements set forth in his bill are similar to those in state and federal gambling laws, which allow tribe members to operate casinos based on their ancestry.
  Peyote is a button-shaped hallucinogenic part of a cactus classified by the U.S. government as a controlled substance. But its use in centuries-old religious ceremonies among American Indian tribes has been allowed on the basis of religious freedom.
  After   the meeting, Mooney said his lawsuit has been prepared for weeks and will be filed as soon as the legislative session ends.
  "We're waiting until after these sessions end, and then we'll take a roll call," Mooney said.
  Mooney founded the Oklevueha Earth Walks Native American Church in Benjamin, a rural community west of Spanish Fork, in 1997. The Native American Church exists throughout the United States and Canada, and each chapter operates autonomously and sets its own rules.

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