08 Jun First Church of Cannabis Wins Tax-Exempt Status
In Indiana, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has created a great deal of criticism and support from citizens, talking heads, and pundits across nation.
Those in opposition see it as a thinly veiled attempt to allow Christian business owners to discriminate against homosexuals, while supporters see it as an attempt to protect the faithful in an increasingly secular world.
Elsewhere in the Hoosier state, one man is taking this controversial bill and using it as an opportunity to spread the message of love—and cannabis.
Bill Levin is the founder of The First Church of Cannabis, a newly formed religion dedicated to using cannabis as its holy sacrament. Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the state cannot “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless there is “compelling government interest” and the state is acting in the least restrictive way possible.
Using that interpretation of the law, Levin formed The First Church of Cannabis. What’s more, Levin filed for non-profit tax-exempt status with the IRS and got it in less than 30 days. This is remarkable, especially when you consider that it took other religions, like Scientology, years or even decades to achieve the same thing.
“I am one of the few Americans who say ‘I love the IRS’,” Levin told AOL News. “There are people out there scratching their heads wanting to know how this happened, and I can answer that in one simple question: Love. Love works in mysterious ways.”
For the moment the church has no location, and no services have yet been performed, but speaking with The Huffington Post, Levin said that the church is close to having a location. “The reality of it is we are a 90 day old business with no credit and $10,000 in the bank,” Levin said. “It’s just a matter of being creative with the financing.”
Once a location is chosen, Levin plans on building their sanctuary out of hempcrete, which is a building material made out of hemp. The first service will take place on July 1 of this year, the same day that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act takes effect.
Once the church is up and running, members will be asked to make humble donations of $4.20 a month.
Before you get too excited, The First Church of Cannabis will not be selling or producing cannabis for their services; for now it’s BYOB (Bring Your Own Bud). According to Levin, church members, dubbed Cannabiterians, will simply be allowed to smoke during services, which will be a modern interpretation of the church service that many grew up with.
“The bibles of other religions are yesteryear about the drinking out of goat skins. That doesn’t relate to people with GPS in their hand and 7,000 tunes in that same hand,” said Levin, speaking with The Washington Post. “The church is very simple. The first good book we’re going to ask parishioners to read and understand is ‘The Emperor Wears No Clothes.’”