Slicing up Masterpiece Cakeshop stories (again): It may help to recall that earlier peyote case

Slicing up Masterpiece Cakeshop stories (again): It may help to recall that earlier peyote case

Here we go again, and again. From time to time, there are religion-news issues that create headlines day after day, for weeks or months at a time. This creates a problem for your GetReligionistas. Do we keep critiquing these stories, banging our heads on our keyboards as we see the same old mistakes and holes in the coverage?

One could argue that it's more important to note problems that keep showing up in the news than it is to note a mistake that happens once or twice. Surely it's significant when lighting keeps striking the same spot time after time?

Thus, here is an update to yesterday's Bobby Ross, Jr., post: "As Supreme Court bites into same-sex wedding cake dispute, how to tell good media coverage from bad." You may have noticed that Bobby's post was built on themes from previous GetReligion commentary about news coverage of various religious-liberty cases (linked to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act).

With the U.S. Supreme Court wading into the Masterpiece Cakeshop wars, I would like to flash back to a parable I wrote two years ago, in an attempt to help journalists think through several key issues linked to these stories. Here we go (again):

... There is a businessman in Indianapolis who runs a catering company. He is an openly gay Episcopalian and, at the heart of his faith (and the faith articulated by his church) is a sincere belief that homosexuality is a gift of God and a natural part of God's good creation. This business owner has long served a wide variety of clients, including a nearby Pentecostal church that is predominantly African-American.
Then, one day, the leaders of this church ask him to cater a major event -- the upcoming regional conference of the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays. He declines, saying this would violate everything he stands for as a liberal Christian. He notes that they have dozens of other catering options in their city and, while he has willingly served them in the past, it is his sincere belief that it would be wrong to do so in this specific case.

Note, in particular that:

It's clear that the gay Christian businessman is not asking to discriminate against an entire class of Americans. He is asking that his consistently demonstrated religious convictions be honored in this case, one with obvious doctrinal implications.

OK, that's another sexuality case. Maybe it would help to think back to an earlier religious-liberty fight. Did Native Americans seek the right to use peyote (period) or did they seek the right to use peyote in a very specific situation, a rite that had existed in the traditions of their faith for centuries?

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'God and cannabis': Newspaper offers serious take on church that believes in smoking marijuana

'God and cannabis': Newspaper offers serious take on church that believes in smoking marijuana

Ever heard of a pot-smoking church?

If you pay attention to the news, such churches seem difficult to miss lately.

When Indiana passed its religious freedom law in 2015, questions — and controversy — arose as to whether the measure would open the legal door to the First Church Of Cannabis.

Last year, the Los Angeles Times gave national coverage to the Stoner Jesus Bible Study in Centennial, Colo.

And most recently, longtime religion writer Greg Garrison of the Birmingham News and Alabama Media Group profiled a pro-marijuana church (as part of a series on marijuana in that Bible Belt state):

With a stained-glass window behind them, a lineup of speakers stepped to the front of the church and talked about the potential health benefits of legalizing plants that are currently outlawed in Alabama.
"I smoke cannabis on a daily basis for my pain," said Janice Rushing, president of the Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light in Alabama. "If I did not, I'd be on pain pills."
Her husband, Christopher Rushing, chief executive officer of Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light, says he also uses marijuana routinely.
The Rushings founded the Oklevueha Church in 2015 and claim that it has a legal exemption for its members to smoke marijuana and ingest hallucinogenic mushrooms and peyote cactus.
At a January forum with an audience of about 30 gathered at Unity Church in Birmingham, which allowed the use of its facilities, speakers discussed the potential benefits of marijuana and other substances for medicinal purposes.
"I had an ungodly facial rash," said Sherrie Saunders, a former U.S. Army medic who is now a member of Oklevueha Native American Church in Alabama.
"We made a cream that completely got rid of that rash," Mrs. Rushing said.
Someone in the audience discussed a heart problem and sleep apnea.
"That could be something that cannabis could help," Saunders said.

Kudos to Garrison for a solid piece of reporting on — believe it or not — "God and cannabis."

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