New Religious Movements

Native religious leaders say legalizing peyote for all would threaten their practices

September 17, 2022

The possibility that states might decriminalize the general use of peyote is raising concerns among Indigenous practitioners, who employ the cactus in traditional settings like the Native American Church. Already, the Navajo Nation is moving to oppose any changes in the law.

As states continue to decriminalize marijuana, Tracy Willie, director of the Navajo medicine man group Azeé Bee Nahaghá of Diné Nation, Inc., said there could be a domino effect of states wanting to decriminalize peyote, which is a Schedule I controlled substance under...

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Psychedelic salon looks to the possibility of sacred healing

August 29, 2022

Seated below the stained glass of a historic Gothic Revival church building with incense burning and lit by multicolored lamps, nearly 100 people were gathered on a recent summer day to hear speakers talk about how their lives had been transformed, not by faith but by psychedelic drugs.

The first EntheoCon, advertised as a “psychedelic salon,” held Aug. 20, was organized by a new network of advocates of plant medicine, who aim to create awareness about...

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Psychedelics as a sacrament? Lawsuit says drugs are a religious right.

August 17, 2022

At the Zide Door church of entheogenic plants in Oakland, Calif., the minister wears a robe printed with cannabis leaves. During sermons, members are free to smoke marijuana — received as a “sacrament” — in an effort to connect with a higher power.

In August 2020, the church’s operations were interrupted when Oakland police officers raided the building and seized about $200,000 in cannabis, psilocybin mushrooms and cash, claiming that the establishment operated more like an illegal dispensary...

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Churches sue to use hallucinogenic tea in religious practice

July 19, 2022

 Two Arizona churches are fighting in federal court to establish a right to use a sacramental tea brewed from plants containing a hallucinogenic compound in their religious practice.

The Arizona Yagé Assembly and the Church of the Eagle and the Condor allege in separate lawsuits that their constitutional right to the free exercise of their religion has been violated by federal agencies' seizure of their ayahuasca, an herbal tea that contains a small amount of dimethyltryptamine.

The churches are seeking a declaration that the government's actions stopping them...

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How a Religious Sect Landed Google in a Lawsuit

June 16, 2022

In a tiny town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, a religious organization called the Fellowship of Friends has established an elaborate, 1,200-acre compound full of art and ornate architecture.

More than 200 miles away from the Fellowship’s base in Oregon House, Calif., the religious sect, which believes a higher consciousness can be achieved by embracing fine arts and culture, has also gained a foothold inside a business unit at Google.

Even in Google’s freewheeling office culture, which encourages employees to speak their own minds and pursue their own...

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2022 Azeé Bee Nahagha - Native American Church Summit raises concerns over peyote protections for Indigenous ceremonies and medicinal use

June 7, 2022

At this year’s Azeé Bee Nahagha - Native American Church Summit, the Navajo Nation Council discussed ways to protect the use of peyote for tribal ceremonies and medicinal use as outlined by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994.

The Navajo-Hopi Observer reports Navajo leaders raised concerns about the potential for the plant to be used recreationally by non-Indigenous people. Peyote is a sacred plant to many tribes and has been used for centuries as part of religious, cultural and medicinal ceremonies.

As some states, including California,...

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How to make a thousand witches with one Supreme Court decision

June 6, 2022

“No wonder this stuff’s getting so damn popular,” exclaims Shirley to her friend Joan at the start of George Romero’s 1972 film “Hungry Wives.” Joan and Shirley, two neglected middle-age suburban housewives, are on their way to a tarot reading.

What’s getting “so damn popular” is witchcraft.

“The religion offers a retreat” for repressed women, Shirley notes, adding, “Christ, what other kind of women are there?”

Source:...

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Settlement reached in religious freedom, solitary confinement suit

January 10, 2022

The ACLU of Virginia announced today that a settlement agreement has been reached in Burke v. Clarke, a federal lawsuit on behalf of Randy Burke, a practicing Rastafarian who was put in solitary confinement for over five years for refusing to cut his hair, even though it violated a tenet of his religion.

During his time in solitary confinement, Burke was also denied opportunities to practice his religion, including receiving religious services, religious items, and holiday meals.

Burke was originally incarcerated in the Virgin Islands and was...

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Danville embraces New Age spiritualism

July 15, 2021

DANVILLE, Va. — Danville may be the City of Churches, but a growing community of New Age spiritualists is quietly choosing meditation over prayer, and crystals over communion.

A paradigm shift
When 23-year-old Briana Pierce was a teenager at Chatham High School, she had to travel to Greensboro to visit a metaphysical shop and explore her Pagan beliefs. Now, there are three in the City of Danville alone.

"I have always been interested in the idea of things like magic," Pierce said. "That definitely always pulled me off of the religious beaten path. As a child, I...

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Satanic Temple sues company that rejected group’s billboards

October 2, 2020

A lawsuit filed by the Satanic Temple alleges that an advertising company unfairly refused to display some billboards promoting a ritual offered by the group to help people bypass abortion rules in some states.

The group, based in Salem, Massachusetts, announced Wednesday that it has sued Lamar Advertising in Arkansas state court. The suit accuses the Louisiana-based company of religious discrimination.

Source:...

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Yoga’s 'father in the West' still defining our spirituality and celebrity 100 years later

September 17, 2020

One hundred years ago on Sept. 19, the Indian yogi and guru Paramahansa Yogananda arrived in Boston as the Indian delegate for the Unitarian Conference of Religious Liberals. Yogananda’s arrival, along with an earlier visit by another Indian teacher, Swami Vivekananda, began yoga’s rise on these shores into a major industry, as well as one of the most significant examples of syncretism — a religious and cultural mashup — in the history of the West.

Yogananda’s contribution to the growing diversity of America’s...

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Black Girl Magic: How Tarot Is Helping Women of Color Connect

August 7, 2020

Once taboo, tarot reading is considered spooky, and even wicked by some. But the form of divination that uses cards dates back to the 15th century—and has become the latest spiritual trend. Decks are sold at almost any store, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram and Facebook pages are dedicated to the art of divination. But some practitioners in the United States have been using the cards for decades as a tool in their spiritual practices as they turn away from Western religions for traditional African-centered and Indigenous spiritualities.

Source:...

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Faith in protest as young people find fervor on the street

July 29, 2020

“I can’t breathe!’” the crowd chanted, invoking the dying words spoken by George Floyd as a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck.

Kianna Ruff yelled it over and over along with hundreds of fellow protesters as they marched for hours through New York City, a kind of collective mantra that touched someplace deep inside those present.

“I just started choking and I broke down,” the 28-year-old activist and minister said. “And I do feel like that that was also a spiritual experience that I’ve never experienced before.”...

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More black millennials are turning away from traditional religion to find their spirituality

March 11, 2020

Religion is known to form the foundation of the black community, especially in the South, which is known as the "Bible Belt." 

Here, church isn't just a place, it's a lifestyle. That's exactly how R.S. Cole grew up. 

"My aunt was a pastor, my grandmother was on the usher board," Cole said. "They had me in debutantes, things of that nature, but they kept me in a Christian faith."

A recent Pew study shows eight in 10 African Americans self-identify as Christians, but now, more and more younger African Americans say they're not affiliate with just...

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Is the rise of the nones slowing? Scholars say maybe

February 12, 2020

For the past 25 years, the number of Americans claiming no religion has steadily ballooned as more and more people quit church, synagogue or mosque and openly acknowledged being a  “none.”

The reality is particularly stark when looked at from a generational perspective. If 10% of people from the silent generation (born 1928-1945) consider themselves religiously unaffiliated, a whopping 40% of millennials (born 1981-1996) say they have no religion, according to ...

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