Thursday, December 07, 2006

Peyote Damage Suit Against US, Utah, and County Dismissed

In Mooney v. United States [scroll to pg. 112] (D UT, Dec. 5, 2006), a Utah federal district court dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds a suit brought against the United States and the state of Utah for damages. Plaintiffs claim that they were being improperly prosecuted for using peyote in religious rituals. The court also dismissed plaintiffs' claims against Utah County, finding that there are no facts that show that the county has an official policy that infringes plaintiffs' right to use peyote in religious rituals. Yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune reports that the case stems from a dispute that began when police raided the Oklevueha Earthwalks church in Benjamin, Utah. (See prior posting.) There police seized 12,000 peyote buttons and charged the church's founders, James "Flaming Eagle" Mooney and Linda Mooney, with first-degree felonies. The charges were dropped after the Utah Supreme Court held that Utah law permits the use of peyote by members of the Native American Church, regardless of whether they are members of a federally recognized Indian tribe. (See prior posting.)