An Indiana pastor says local drug dealers have joined with his church to rally against the First Church of Cannabis, an organization dedicated to the recreational use of marijuana that recently purchased a building in their Eastside neighborhood.
"I don't believe it's a religion, I believe it's a drug house," said pastor Bill Jenkins who serves at the Church of Acts, which is located around the corner from the First Church of Cannabis' new location, to U.S. News.
Jenkins told the publication that he believes the local drug dealers fear competition from the newly established religious group. He blasted the marijuana church calling their claim to be a religion a "bogus excuse to get high" and will lead a protest outside the cannabis group's first service.
The Church of Cannabis will hold their first service inside their newly purchased church building on July 1, the same day Indiana's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) goes into effect.
The group originally hoped to test the limits of the new law by using recreational marijuana during their first service, an act which is still considered a crime in Indiana, but its founder, musician Bill Levin has since changed his tune.
He told U.S. News he has discouraged members from bringing marijuana to their first service and said if a disobedient member lights up he will avoid being arrested himself for maintaining a common nuisance. Levin even agreed to let a police officer attend the gathering.
Levin said he will light up a cigar instead of marijuana during the meeting and is waiting on judicial confirmation to begin using the drug recreationally during their services.
Levin defended the organization and said it's all about love. He also revealed that its members have crafted practices and teachings that resemble a religion including a variation of the Ten Commandments named "The New Deity Dozen."
The First Church of Cannabis formed in March after Indiana passed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act which was strongly opposed by the LGBT community and major corporations.
Opponents felt the law which says government cannot "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow their religious beliefs, unless it can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden and it does so in the least restrictive way, would give Christians the right to discriminate against gays.
Indiana's Gov. Mike Pence caved to critics and created revisions to the bill that protect the rights of gays and lesbians before the state's General Assembly passed RFRA.
The First Church of Cannabis had hoped to test the newly acquired protection of religious freedom in the state by using marijuana recreationally. The group was originally supposed to hold a smoking session during their first service.
Levin described his plans for the service to U.S. News in May.
"I'm an old school producer," Levin told U.S. News. "We start off the show soft and we have a build-up and then in the end we explode in glory and we all dance around the hall."
Levin said the service will open with "Amazing Grace" being played on a harmonica by a popular young musician and will move to a quick sermon followed by a "call to worship," which is a time for members to smoke.
The organization also received tax-exempt status from the IRS before purchasing an old church in Indianapolis' Eastside area in June.
Along with their own gatherings, the group will host Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings inside their new building.