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Peyote, used for sacramental purposes. Peyote, used for sacramental purposes.

Peyote has no bearing on church registration

Supreme Court rules in favor of church after it was denied official registration

Just because its adherents use peyote doesn’t mean the Native American Church of Mexico should be denied official registration.

The Supreme Court has ruled that in a discussion regarding the constitutionality of a religious faith centered on the consumption of a controlled substance like peyote, the Interior Secretariat (Segob) should stick to its role as registrar.

The church had filed for an amparo, or legal judgement, against the General Directorate of Religious Associations, an agency that operates under Segob.

The agency denied the church’s official recognition request in 2013 on the grounds that several requisites weren’t met.

The Supreme Court observed that during the assessment of the registration request, Segob consulted with several agencies, including the Federal Commission for Protection Against Health Risks (Cofepris) and the Culture Secretariat, with regard to the use and consumption of peyote by the indigenous communities in various regions of the country.

In the court’s decision to grant the amparo request it stated that the role of Segob is basically one of record keeping, and that it should limit its assessment to verifying that a body of religious beliefs (akin to the Christian Bible or the Muslim Quran) exists.

In other words, the Interior Secretariat cannot question the validity or ideological content of religious beliefs when processing the registration of a church.

In doing so, Segob would be “invading a realm outside its original scope as an authority.”

Instead, the government should provide applicants with assistance to meet the needed requirements.

The Native American Church of Mexico is characterized by mixed traditional beliefs as well as Protestant ones, and by its sacramental use of peyote, a small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline.

Internationally, peyotism, as the religion is also known, has about 250,000 followers.

The General Health Law of Mexico regards peyote as a forbidden hallucinogenic cactus whose mescaline content is lacking in any therapeutic properties. Instead it is seen as being susceptible to abuse and as such a serious public health issue.

In its amparo request the church also contested the constitutionality of that part of the General Health Law, an issue on which the Supreme Court did not rule.

Source: Reforma (sp)

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