Ian Hunter Fights for Freedom of Religion in th Supreme Court of BC
??? The Supreme Court of British
Columbia denies the existence of God, in order to prohibit religions which
advocate the sanctity of marijuana from exercising their constitutional
The Holy Sacrament of Marijuana
??? Just as the Old Testament
Jews asked Pharaoh to recognize their right to freely worship their God,
so too have Church of the Universe members been asking Canadian courts
to recognize their right to freely worship God, through the holy sacrament
??? The church’s latest
battle for religious freedom reached British Columbia’s Supreme Court on
April 7. Reverend Ian Hunter of the Mission of Ecstasy, also owner of Victoria’s
Sacred Herb hemp store, appeared before the Supreme Court of British Columbia
to argue for his right to use marijuana and other psychoactive substances.
He has been charged with possession of “magic mushrooms”, possession and
cultivation of marijuana, and possession of unsterilized marijuana seeds.
God is Good. Prohibition is Evil.
??? Hunter intended to present
evidence related to the first line of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,
which guarantees that “…Canada is founded upon principles that recognize
the supremacy of God and the rule of Law.”
??? Says Hunter, “If the
founding fathers were creationists then they believed their God made all
living things. Therefore, whether one believes in God or not, the Narcotic
Control Act and the Food and Drug Act are in conflict with the Charter
because they conflict with the right of these substances to exist, and
are therefore, by their definition, in conflict with the ‘will of God’.”
??? The freedom to possess
and cultivate such sacred plants is an important element of Reverend Hunter’s
religious convictions. To Hunter, unnecessary legal restrictions on one’s
freedoms are akin to evil.
“If marijuana isn’t harmful then why is
it illegal?” he asks. “God to the extreme is good and law to the extreme
is evil. Prohibition is taking itself to a potentially evil extreme with
the prohibition of these psychoactive and healing plants. They were placed
on earth for us to use them.”
The Legal Argument
Part of Reverend Hunter’s constitutional
challenge questioned whether the Narcotic Control Act could be valid when
it does not provide for freedom of religion.
??? The chair of the church’s
Faculty for Legal Self Defence, Bishop Michael Baldasaro, notes that any
law which does not provide for the full exercise of the rights and freedoms
guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (including freedom of
religion) is supposed to be amended by the government. If the court refuses
to recommend that the law be amended, then it is denying honest Canadian
citizens their constitutional rights.
??? Reverend Hunter was
also questioning whether he should have been charged with possession of
cannabis seeds, which are not specifically mentioned in the Narcotic Control
??? “If the judge did find
me guilty of seeds, he would be going over his authority and going against
Parliament,” said Hunter. “He would end up adding a new substance to the
schedule and judges don’t do that.”
As Bishop Baldasaro notes, the law provides
that “a limit which is vague, ambiguous, uncertain or subject to discretionary
determination is by that fact alone an unreasonable limit. If a citizen
cannot know with tolerable certainty the extent to which the exercise of
a guaranteed freedom may be restrained, he is likely to be deterred from
conduct which is in fact lawful and not prohibited.”
Christians Among Romans
??? When appearing in the
Supreme Court, Church of the Universe reverends traditionally wear long
beards, blankets, and hempen hats. Breaking slightly with tradition, Reverend
Hunter appeared in the Supreme Court in mutton-chops, a grey flannel suit
and hemp boxers.
??? “When in Rome, dress
as the Romans do,” he was quoted as saying.
Accompanying Ian Hunter to present evidence
was Chris Bennet, who is also a Church of the Universe minister, and Reverend
Henry Boston, a retired Anglican and United Church Minister.
During their week-long appearance, the
reverends found themselves constantly faced with questions which subtly
evaded the issue of freedom of religion.
??? In an open letter written
during the trial, Hunter says “It’s four days into the trial and the Crown
has had me and Chris Bennet on the stand as members of the Church of the
Universe. The questions they keep getting back to are ‘do you force your
members to smoke pot? Do you require your members to wear hemp?’?The
answer Chris and I gave was ‘people can do whatever they want.'”
??? Chris Bennet, the author
of Green Gold: The Tree of Life, was eventually denied the right to provide
any significant evidence. Green Gold is a voluminous tome, detailing the
use of marijuana in religion throughout recorded history, and a seminal
work in the field of marijuana and religion. Yet Justice Drake ruled that
Bennet was not an authority on the issue, and so wasn’t qualified to speak
about marijuana and religion in general terms.
??? Says Reverend Bennet,
“I kept trying to bring it back to historical information, like ‘We believe
that marijuana is for the healing of the nations and that includes all
nations…’ but they kept stopping it.”
Drake Declares that God is Dead
??? Reverend Hunter’s argument
hinged partly on a debate over the “supremacy of God clause” of the Charter
of Rights. Reverend Henry Boston was to give testimony on the issue. “If
the cultivation of these plants is a crime,” said the seventy-five year
old Boston, “then God is a criminal and Mr Hunter is only his accomplice.”
Justice Drake refused to allow testimony
concerning the supremacy of God, “There’s nobody who could give evidence
on whether or not God is supreme in Canada. Who is qualified to do that?”
??? Logically, Drake’s
decision to disregard the supremacy of God amounts to a denial of God’s
existence, since God is defined within the judeo-christian tradition as
a “supreme being”.
??? Historically, Drake’s
implicit attempt to deny God’s existence conforms to a pattern of authoritarian
abuse which has always been oppressive towards minority religious organizations.
Since the first scribblings of recorded history we find figures like the
ancient Pharaoh of Egypt, denying the existence of God as a means of refusing
a people their freedom. “Who is the Lord?” asked the Pharaoh, “I know not
the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.”(Exodus 5:2)
??? “I tried to get the
judge to throw the Bible out of the courtroom,” Hunter later recalled,
“because it obviously doesn’t mean anything anymore. The judge didn’t go
Court Decides Narcotic Control Act is Superior to Charter
??? Chris Bennet recalls
how Justice Drake dealt with the issue of freedom of religion.
??? “The judge said that
a professional theologian, like Henry Boston, wasn’t able to discuss the
supremacy of God over the Narcotics Act. Yet he [Justice Drake] is able,
as a judge, to rule on what justifies a religion.
“He’s saying that any religion that breaks
a law is not a religion. Well, what happened with the peyote church? What
happened with the Catholics giving wine communion to minors?”
??? Chris Bennet is referring
to other cases in which the laws of the land have been suspended to allow
for the full exercise of freedom of religion. Instances in which freedom
of religion has been recognized as supreme in Canada include the decision
to allow Sikhs to carry concealed weapons, and to wear turbans during instances
when the law would generally have it otherwise.
Reverend Hunter on Sabbatical
??? When the Pharaoh refused
to give Israel freedom, Moses called down plagues of frogs and filled the
Nile with blood. Ian Hunter would rather not be compared to Moses – or
any other religious icon. “I don’t want a crowd following me, I don’t want
to be crucified and I don’t want to pretend I know more than I do. I just
want to do the right and moral thing and sleep at night.”
??? From his retreat in
the small islands of the Strait of Georgia, Ian Hunter gathers his thoughts
after the court battle. In a telephone call he shared his concerns, which
reveal an unbeatable positive outlook.
??? “I went in there expecting
to lose this round and go to appeals. In terms of how the game goes, that’s
par for the course and that’s good. I was kind of disappointed initially
because the judge ruled that most of my argument was hugely irrelevant.
I know it wasn’t.
??? “I’m pretty enthused
right now. If I had won this round, then it would have remained as a local
thing, it wouldn’t have gone anywhere. Because they ruled against me, it
can go to the higher court of appeal, and then to the higher court after
that. So this allows the process to continue.”
??? If the courts continue
to ignore Hunter’s plea, the plague which will infect Canada will not be
falling frogs or a river of blood. The plague will be a growing sore on
the hearts and minds of every Canadian citizen, a lasting disrespect for
a justice system which guarantees rights and freedoms, yet refuses to acknowledge