Legal Status, Process and Limitations on Protection
Oklevueha NAC (specifically James and Linda) has been to court under felony indictment for the use and distribution of Peyote. The case eventually ended as the Utah Supreme Court directed the dismissal of all charges and I have been told, reprimanded the Utah County attorney for ever prosecuting the case. They indicated in their decision that ONAC is a valid Native American Church, that Peyote is a valid sacrament and that the state cannot restrict membership to only those who are of native blood or tribal membership. It is also true that the County DA tried to get the federal government to prosecute them on similar charges which they began to do, but after doing massive research chose to rescind all charges.
UDV (another type of church run by our good friend) went clear to the US Supreme Court to defend their right to use Ayahuasca and won.
A number of court cases around the country have ruled that we are a valid NAC and have dismissed charges based on that fact for a few native sacraments. The legal team can tell you more accurately the details of those cases if you want to contact them. Those are the good news items.
Currently, there are a few people in jail and others in the process of legal cases that are or were formerly members of ONAC. In most cases these are cannabis related and in most of those cases, it can be traced to the violation of the Code of Ethics and/or the Code of Conduct by that member, but there are a couple of exceptions. It is important to note that Oklevueha does not and can not provide attorneys for our members. We do not have the funds to do that, but we do have a legal defense fund that anyone can contribute to if they would like to support legal defenses for our members that have cases ongoing and for those that the legal advisory board have decided are eligible cases. So far, we have received (and spent) enough to contribute to the defense of some people. Our legal advisory team is made up of para-legals and experienced members who can assist attorneys hired by members if and when needed. You may contact us through the website. Please allow 48-72 hours for our legal advisory team to respond.
We, as a church, believe that we are legally within our rights to use any plant or earth based natural medicine or sacrament (terms somewhat interchangeable as the native definitions of those terms are slightly different than the general definitions in common use) that any indigenous people use for those purposes (spirituality and healing). It needs to be clear to all that, until someone takes one of these cases to a superior court (US District, State or US Supreme Court) and wins as James and Linda did, there is not wide and clear precedent or existing case law for the other sacraments. We believe that those sacraments will be upheld as coming within the legal protection of constitutional, civil and sacred religious freedoms and other laws currently on the books, However, until someone takes them through that process there is grey area and lack of a 100% surety (precedent) that everyone is protected for the other medicines than Peyote.
Now to those employed by the government, serving in the military or on probation (conviction) of crimes previous to joining ONAC. In all these situations, your “rights” can be affected by the employment agreement you sign or the terms of your probation. Every employer can set policies for their employees including having to pass drug testing to be demonstrably free of “illegal” substances whether they have a legal right to possess and use those substances or not. This is especially true for government work. Some people have received specific exemptions in order to participate in native ceremonies with these substances, but the government and other employers are not required to grant those exceptions. With a good lawyer, a member may be able to force their employer to allow the use of these items under medical necessity or religious freedom reasons, but we do not know of anyone doing so at this point. Those who are on probation can only participate if their Parole Officer gives them specific, written permission as they otherwise may be sent back to jail for not following the direction of their PO or violating the terms of the probation.
We believe it to be true that we have a legal right to use, possess and transport these medicines/sacraments. As with all rights, we may have to pay a price to defend and keep those rights. We believed as a nation that we had the rights outlined in the Declaration of Independence, but we had to fight the Revolutionary War to preserve those rights to ourselves as a nation. It is a sad truth that, in addition to the above concerns, there are some corrupt law enforcement people and corrupt judicial people. The prosecution of alleged drug crimes is extremely lucrative for these organizations and even for the people in them in some cases. This leads to corruption and intentional ignorance of the law in some people. We believe that this is the root cause of most of the troubles our members encounter.
SPECIAL NOTE: Please be aware of the fact that ignorance, corruption, bigotry, prejudice and any illegal religious persecutions may vary from different community and jurisdictional districts. Be strong by standing up for your inalienable constitutional rights by refusing to “plea bargain” and by demanding that the authorities as well as the court (including the judge) have lawfully satisfied the basic standard “government compelling interest” test. Also, be sure to challenge any officers, prosecutors and judges who must prove to you that the court has lawful jurisdiction over the case.
We, as an organization, are doing our best to educate those in law enforcement as to these concepts, but it is an uphill battle and will only be won with conviction and perseverance. Remember to fully educate any attorney that you use to help you in relation to illegal actions or cases of law enforcement agents/officers, prosecutors or court room judges.
What you can do to aid in the preservation of our rights.
We encourage all members of Oklevueha who have had positive experiences and have been able to overcome addiction, illness or other troubles through the ceremonies and sacraments we work with to share their stories through the website and through our organization. You do not need to use your full name and location. It could be as simple as “Dave from New York” or “Sharon from Southern Utah”. Telling your story is testimony to the power and blessings of these sacred ceremonies and medicines and helps us show to law enforcement and judicial personnel that we are indeed using these things to heal and bless people and that the central purpose of all we do is spiritual. You can submit those stories to email@example.com and we will keep your information as private as you desire. You can also share them directly with other members through the forum pages which are only available to members of ONAC. You can go there here. If you do not have access to those pages yet, you can apply for that at this link. https://nativeamericanchurches.org/members-only-access-application/