Pubdate: Mon, 07 Feb 2011
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2011 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Sam Pazzano
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Spiritual or Sacramental)


It's judgment day Monday for a Toronto church - the "Church of the 
Universe" - that has asked a Superior Court judge for an exemption to 
the country's marijuana laws for religious reasons.

If Madam Justice Thea Herman grants the exemption, it would strike 
down the laws prohibiting the possession, cultivation and 
distribution of marijuana.

"It would effectively legalize marijuana because every pot smoker 
would find a new religion," argued Nick Devlin and Donna Polgar, of 
the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, which opposed the bid.

They urged the court to weed out frivolous claims.

"The Church of the Universe ... offers marijuana - however and 
whenever individuals want it," the lawyers stated in their factums 
filed in court.

"Simply put, the mere fact that one profoundly enjoys using marijuana 
does not beget a constitutional right to traffic it commercially."

It is expected that if the Church wins the exemption, the federal 
government will appeal the decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal.

It's believed to be the first time a Canadian court has been asked to 
define whether a religion's illegal practices are protected by the 
Charter of Rights.

Lawyers Paul Lewin and George Filipovic, who represent two 
minister-members of the church, argued the Church of the Universe 
views cannabis as sacred substance which brings them closer to God.

The religion also teaches that Jesus Christ was anoited with a holy 
oil, containing a key ingredient which translates as cannabis, court heard.

The two lawyers represent Peter Styrsky and Shahrooz Kharaghani, both 
minister-members of the Beaches Mission of God - Assembly of The 
Church of the Universe (COU) location at 1905 Queen St. E.

By outlawing marijuana, the state is infringing on the Universe 
church-goers Charter right of Freedom of Religion, their lawyers 
asserted. Styrsky, 53, and Kharaghani, 31, were charged with 
trafficking marijuana after they allegedly sold pot to two undercover 
cops who infiltrated their church as members in 2006.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom