Pubdate: Thu, 27 Jun 2002
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2002 Associated Press
Author: Jay Lindsay, Associated Press Writer


BOSTON (AP) - Drug use of any kind should be legal, according to the 
Unitarian Universalist Association, the first religious denomination to 
take the stance, church officials said.

The "Statement of Conscience" passed at the Boston-based association's 
general assembly proposes legalizing marijuana and making all currently 
illegal drugs available with a prescription.

The statement said the federal government's costly drug war is cruel and 
ineffective, and disproportionately affects the poor and minorities. It 
added that drug use is widely misunderstood.

"Drug use is erroneously perceived as behavior that is out of control and 
harmful to others," the statement reads. "... Yet many people who use both 
legal and illegal drugs live productive, functional lives and do no harm to 

The statement was approved Saturday by two-thirds of the roughly 1,700 
delegates at the General Assembly in Quebec, which wrapped up earlier this 

Charles Thomas, the head of Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform, 
said the statement reinforces the denomination's basic theological tenets, 
which stress compassion and justice.

He said drug abuse would be better seen as a medical problem, rather than a 
crime, and addicts would respond to "the transforming power of love," much 
better than incarceration.

"Ideally, people will not use drugs," he said. "We're not pro-drug. We're 
pro-choice on drugs, pro-honesty."

Robert Maginnis of the Family Research Council, a Christian public policy 
group, said the statement is well-intentioned, but misguided because it 
ignores the fact that drugs are harmful, whether they're legal or not.

"We don't want to make it easier for people to use drugs, we want to make 
it more difficult because of what they do to themselves," he said. "It's 
not the illegality of drugs that's at fault. Drugs are just bad for you."

The small, liberal denomination, with about 150,000 members nationwide, has 
a traditionally bucked the mainstream on social issues.

Robert Fuller, a religion professor at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., 
said the Universalists advocated abolition, women's suffrage, and gay 
rights years before other liberal denominations followed suit.

"History tends to be on their side," he said.
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