Man who claims to be Seminole wins decision in NAC case

A man who claims Seminole descent and who runs a "Native American Church" will be allowed to pursue his religious rights claims thanks to a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Michael Rex "Raging Bear" Mooney runs the Oklevueha Native American Church of Hawaii. Normally, practitioners of the Native American Church use peyote in ceremonies but this group uses marijuana as a sacrament.

Mooney sued the federal government when his marijuana was seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration. He never faced charges but sought compensation for the drugs that were destroyed.

The 9th Circuit said Mooney can't recover money damages under the Religious Freedom Rights Act. The court said the law does not "unambiguously" waive the federal government's sovereign immunity.

But the 9th Circuit said Mooney could sue to prevent federal prosecution in the future for possession or distribution of marijuana. The case will return to a lower court for further proceedings.

Michael Rex Mooney appears to be related to the Mooneys who run a "Oklevueha" Native American Church in Utah. The group's leader, James Mooney, successfully blocked the state from prosecuting him for the possession of peyote despite not having ties to a federally recognized tribe.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Oklevueha Native American Church v. Holder.

Get the Story:
Ninth Circuit Revives Lawsuit over Religious Marijuana Use (The Wall Street Journal 4/9)
Appeals court reinstates church's challenge to drug laws (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser 4/9)
Feds Don't Owe Tribal Church for Seized Drugs (Courthouse News Service 4/9)

9th Circuit Decision:
Oklevueha Native American Church v. Holder (April 9, 2012)

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