MEDFORD, ORE. – An Oregon branch of the Brazilian church Santo Daime claims in federal court that the United States is unconstitutionally threatening to arrest its members if they import or drink the ceremonial, psychoactive Ayahuasca tea, or Daime. The tea contains trace amounts of the Schedule 1 drug DMT. “It is believed that only by taking the tea can a Church member have a direct experience with Jesus Christ,” the lawsuit states.
Drinking the tea has been part of Santo Daime’s religious sacraments since the church’s founding in the 1920s by the Brazilian Mestre Irineu. “The taking of Daime sacrament is necessary for the Church to conduct its services,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs say the United States unlawfully confiscated a shipment of Daime tea sent from the church in Brazil to the Oregon church’s spiritual leader Jonathan Goldman in 1999. Federal agents arrested Goldman and searched his home, according to the lawsuit, but no charges were ever filed against him.
The plaintiff, the Oregon branch of Santo Daime, called The Church of the Holy Light of the Queen, is a Christian church with a small congregation in Bend, Ore. The Santo Daime church is officially recognized in Brazil, where consumption of the tea is allowed.
The religion originated in Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, where founder Irineu traveled and conducted spiritual ceremonies using the tea which comes from plants found in the Amazon. Indigenous tribes have used Ayahuasca tea for thousands of years.
In the U.S. Supreme Court case Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao de Vegetal, the court ruled in 2006 that the federal government had wrongfully confiscated a shipment of the tea to a Santo Daime church branch in New Mexico.
The Oregon-based Santo Daime church, which is represented by Roy Haber, seeks a judgment allowing it to import and drink the tea and a judgment that the federal government wrongfully searched Goldman’s home.