On March 18, 2009, United States District Judge Owen M. Panner found that the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protects the Santo Daime's use of ayahuasca as part of their sincere religious practices.
In 2008 the Church of the Holy Light of the Queen in Ashland, Oregon, led by Padrinho Jonathan Goldman brought suit in federal court, seeking an injunction that would allow them to use ayahuasca as a sacrament in their religious practice.
Joining in the suit was a church in Portland, called Céu da Divina Rosa (Church of the Divine Rose), and its leader Alexandra Bliss Yeager, as well as individual members of both churches.
The Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law report by Judge Panner outlines many points involved with the case, including:
"The government argues that Daime tea is inherently unsafe because it is not produced in an antiseptic laboratory with synthetic ingredients. The government correctly points out that Daime tea varies in strength. Plaintiffs do not contend that Daime tea is a uniform product, but there is no evidence that natural variations in the tea have caused problems."
The district court, after holding extensive hearings, concluded that the evidence on health risks caused by drinking hoasca were "In equipoise," meaning that the government had failed to carry its burden under RFRA. Many of the same experts for the government here also testified in the UDV litigation. Research completed since the district court's decision in 2002, including Dr. Halperns study of these plaintiffs, further undermines the governmentls arguments for "complete prohibition."
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