Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s feature item is from the Associated Press, dated April 16, 1997. “American Indian troops who eat peyote and hallucinate during religious ceremonies can follow their faith while on active duty under new guidelines adopted by the Armed Forces.” “If they’re using peyote in their religious practice, it’s a sacrament, not a drug, just as sacramental wine is not considered a drug,” Air Force Major Monica Aloisio, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The new peyote policy applies to any of the 9262 American Indians in the service. That’s .6 percent of the military population who use the drug to follow their faith. “This opens some doors for our church and it marks the first sanctioned use of a hallucinogen by members of the Armed Forces,” said Frank Dayish, President of the Native American Church of North America. The policy changes stems from the 1994 American Indian Religious Freedom Act which allows Indians to use peyote as religious sacrament. In 1996 the guidelines became part of U. S. Code and the Defense Department began rewriting guidelines. The new guidelines say this: “American Indians who wish to enlist can answer ‘no’ when asked if they have ever used drugs. Peyote may only be used by enrolled members of Indian tribes. Peyote may not be used, possessed, or brought aboard military vehicles, vessels, aircraft, or military installations without permission of the installation commander. Military personnel must notify their commanders of use upon return to duty. Additional limitations may be imposed overseas to comply with foreign laws.”
Chaplain Captain Mel Ferguson, Executive Director of the Armed Forces Chaplain’s Board, said he’s giving chaplains a verbal go ahead to let Indians use peyote in religious services while the guidelines are being finalized. “When people are allowed to practice their faith and nourish the spiritual dimensions of their lives, that promotes and enhances military readiness,” said Ferguson.
Peyote is a small cactus with psychedelic properties that grows naturally in southern Texas. While it’s illegal for most people, Federal law permits use by the 250,000 Native American church members in twenty states. The theology centers on the belief that peyote brings peace of mind, helps people think good thoughts and heals illnesses if one sincerely believes and concentrates. Peyote is usually eaten, but can be smoked. It causes sweating, heightened attention, wakefulness and sometimes, but not always, hallucinatory visions.
Leonardo Mercado who founded the Peyote Foundation in Carney, Arizonaa year ago, said the changes reaffirm the sacred important status peyote has in individuals’ lives. “If I was having somebody to defend me here at home, I would rather them on peyote than alcohol,” he said.
Dave: Well that’s very interesting Tom. Of course it’s part of the whole delusion about indigenous people and native religions. They can be brought into the public schools, but Christianity can’t because Christianity is religion and this is culture. Although their culture is their religion.
The Bible, New Testament comes down very hard on something called sorcery.
Tom: Right. Pharmakia.
Dave: Right, the Greek word pharmakia. It indicates that it would be revived in the last days and the world would refuse to repent of it. So here we have the spread of pharmakia. LSD of course, was taken illicitly and some of the other drugs were taken illicitly.
But now we have the licensing, peyote, which catapults you into a spirit dimension where you meet spirits. Spirit guides, spirit beings, spirit saviors, spirit destroyers even. But that’s okay. These are actually demons. But that’s okay because this is a religious ceremony and it’s part of Native American religiosity.
Now, I guarantee you, if we had an LSD cult formed or some other drug cult formed and it got to be a big church, well that would be a growing church. A lot of people—just think you could take heroin legally now if you belong to a heroin church.
So it doesn’t make sense, but it shows some of the pressure that is being put upon because of the guilt I presume that we feel of having displaced the indigenous peoples, the First Nation People, they call themselves now. So now we’re going to make a special dispensation for them even though we know this drug is harmful. Even though we know that it’s hallucinatory, nevertheless, this is a sacrament of theirs. And of course to liken to the wine, taken in communion, I mean what do you take? A little sip of wine that has what, eight percent alcohol or I don’t know.
Tom: In most places it’s grape juice.
Dave: Yes, to compare that with peyote—its—but here we go.
Tom: Yes but this is the occult invasion isn’t it?
Dave: It is.
Tom: This is what we are accepting more and more and this is really a sign of the last days.
Dave: Well drugs, that’s one doorway into the occult.