Editorial: Return peyote to Utah 'medicine man'
"Federal authorities ought to return peyote that was seized from an American Indian church in Utah County and stop trying to deliver their own brand of justice outside the court system.

James Flaming Eagle Mooney contends that the 15,000 peyote buttons should be returned because his church emerged victorious from a series of court battles. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake City disagrees, saying that the peyote is contraband and that Mooney waived his right to use the substance.

That's hardly the point. The fact is that the use of peyote in genuine religious ceremonies is legitimate, and Mooney's rites are genuine. Court rulings at both federal and state levels support this concept. The prosecutors are using technicalities -- perversely, it seems -- to accomplish now by some sort of misguided sophistry what they failed to accomplish in court.

In 2004, the Utah Supreme Court struck down the criminal charges. The court rightly ruled that the First Amendment protects the right of all people to worship as they choose.

The court also ruled that Utah laws incorporated a federal exemption exempting members of the Native American Church from peyote regulations.

Also of importance, the justices said that no one had to be a member of a federally recognized tribe to be a member of that church or any other."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Give back the peyote (The Provo Daily Herald 8/8)

Utah Supreme Court Decision:
State of Utah v. Mooney (June 22, 2004)

Related Stories:
Utah 'medicine man' claims Seminole heritage (8/1)
Self-described medicine man seeks return of peyote (7/29)
Editorial: Supreme Court opens peyote to non-Indians (2/27)
U.S. Attorney drops peyote charges against couple (2/23)
Bill to limit peyote to tribal members advances (2/8)
White 'wanna-be' Indians target of peyote bill (01/19)
Plea deal reached for peyote case in Utah (12/16)
Utah 'medicine man' won't be released from jail (06/29)
Utah 'medicine man' and wife called drug dealers (6/27)
'Medicine man' arrested, charged in peyote flap (6/24)
'Medicine man' claimed Indian heritage in his 40s (05/23)
Peyote seized from 'medicine man' in federal custody (05/06)
Utah man sues county for return of seized peyote (4/28)
Man in peyote case accuses county of wrongdoing (3/8)
State Lawyer: Misinformation in non-Indian peyote case
U.S. may prosecute Native American Church figure (08/31)
Non-Indian peyote case could head to Supreme Court (08/16)
Ruling allows non-Indians to use peyote in Utah (06/23)
Utah Supreme Court hears arguments in peyote case (11/5)
Utah 'medicine' man at center of court battles (08/26)

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