Self-proclaimed 'Native' church defends drug use and sex healing

James "Flaming Eagle" Mooney of the Oklevueha Native American Church, left, with Tracy Elise, the leader of the Phoenix Goddess Temple in Arizona. Photo from Facebook

A group calling itself the Oklevueha Native American Church is drawing controversy for its questionable teachings and practices.

The group claims marijuana as a sacrament. That irks genuine Native American Church practitioners who fought for years to protect their right to use peyote.

"You can call anything sacred, but we have a tribal lineage and teaching that tells us what actually is and isn't," Sandor Iron Rope, the president of the National Council of Native American Churches, told Courthouse News Service.

Oklevueha also has sanctioned what is being called "sexual healing." Founder James Mooney welcomed four "goddess temples" into his group even though they aren't a part of the Native American Church tradition.

"I interviewed them over a period of years and was convinced that they were working on and mastering the anointing oil ceremony that native people have been doing forever," Mooney told Courthouse News Service.

Despite Mooney's grand pronouncements, Oklevueha does not have a strong track record when it comes to religious freedom. Earlier this month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an outpost of the group run by his son in Hawaii cannot claim an exception from federal marijuana laws.

Mooney himself testified at a recent trial in Arizona involving one of his "goddesses." According to Courthouse News Service, he demonstrated some sort of ceremony using a pipe to show why his supposed "Native" beliefs are compatible with sex healing.

The demonstration apparently didn't have much of an effect -- Tracy Elise of the Phoenix Goddess Temple was found guilty of prostitution last month and is awaiting sentencing, Courthouse News Service reported.

Get the Story:
Native American Church Resists Pot Enthusiasts (Courthouse News Service 4/19)
Native American Church Uneasy With New Influences (Courthouse News Service 4/18)
Ruling Doesn't Settle Future of Native American Church (Courthouse News Service 4/15

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Oklevueha Native American Church v. Lynch (April 6, 2016)

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