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See how Santo Daime won its freedom in Holland - 05/30/2001
Here goes the resumed version of the sentence listing the legal considerations the Dutch court examined for the acquittal of the Santo Daime Church in Amsterdam.
see also:

Legalization in Brasil

Geraldine Fijnemann - The Story
(by a Brazilian national newspaper)

Shamanism versus Capitalism
- an article by Martin A. Lee

the last info about the case

On this Monday, April 21, 2001, the Amsterdam criminal court announced Freedom for the Santo Daime religion!!

The Dutch Court accepted the arguments of the defendant's lawyer, Adele Van der Plas, that Santo Daime's Church is officially recognized as a spiritual doctrine in Brazil and that the use of Ayahuasca is accomplished under a sacramental / religious context.

Therefore, its use is under the protection of the European Agreement of Human Rights, especially in the text of the article 9 where the religious freedom issue is treated. The judges decided that "Ayahuasca doesn't represent any danger for the public health in the way as it is used at Santo Daime's Churches", what means that the Dutch government cannot interfere in the subject.

See below the resumed version (non-official translation from the Dutch) of the sentence listing the legal considerations the Dutch court examined for the acquittal of the Santo Daime Church in Amsterdam.

see also: Geraldine Fijnemann - The Story (by a Brazilian national newspaper)

Legal Considerations for the Acquittal

The Court considers the following:

According to article 9, paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties, freedom of religion cannot have limits other than those described in the law, which are necessary in the interest of public safety, the protection of public order, health and morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The accused was detained in a place that, according to the police report, was apparently a church. In that place the police observed an altar where two people were serving glasses of a brown liquid in small cups to people waiting in a line.

According to the report of the police expert R. Jellema of October 15, 1999, 17.5 liters of this liquid contained 3-4 grams of DMT, also known as dimethyltryptamine, a substance mentioned in schedule 1, section C of the Dutch Drug Law (Opium Act).

In the already-mentioned report of the anthropologist Macrae it is stated that the religion of Santo Daime originated around 1920 in Brazil, composed of indigenous and African influences combined with Christian concepts and values. New rituals were added to the old custom of Ayahuasca ingestion.

Accroding to the charter of the Ceflu Cristi-Céu da Santa Maria church, the Church has as its purpose the practice of and reflection on the doctrine of Santo Daime. The Church is affiliated with the Raimundo Irineu Serra Eclectic Center of the Universal Flowing Light [Centro Eclético da Fluente Luz Universal Raimundo Irineu Serra] – CEFLURIS, which is based in the Vila Céu do Mapiá - Amazonas, Brasil. The purpose of the Dutch Church is based on the purpose of Cefluris, which may be described as "the study, research and practice of the doctrine of Santo Daime, quickening the divine spark in human beings through its rituals, with the aim of integration with the divine."

The expert historian Snelders concluded in his already-mentioned report that the use of psychoactive substances, particularly hallucinogens, is an essential element of many pre-industrial cultures. This custom also exists in syncretic religions that have originated since the 19th century, and which combine the traditional use with Christian belief systems. The Church of Santo Daime can be situated in this same context of the use of psychoactive substances.

The religious specialist Kranengorg declared in his already-cited report that, from the point of view of religious phenomenology, the combination of consciousness-expanding substances with rituals is important for many religions. The use of entheogens always happens in ritual contexts. Ayahuasca is one of the most used entheogens, and the fact of the Church of Santo Daime having opted to use this substance as a method of religious experience makes it essential for contacting the sacred and for the specific practice of adoration of this cult, enabling one to affirm that the Church of Santo Daime cannot exist without this substance.

Based on these expert reports, the court reaches the conclusion that the Amsterdam center (Ceflu Cristi - Céu da Santa Maria) must effectively be considered a Church. The doctrine must be considered a religious creed, and the use of the tea Ayahuasca, also called Daime, being the most important sacrament within the Church of Santo Daime, must be considered an essential part of the religious experience of its members. The accused declared in court that the Church of Santo Daime gave her support and strength, and that Ayahuasca is used as a sacrament together with dancing and the singing of hymns. The conviction of the accused must, based on this, be considered religious.

This conviction, and also the religious practice through which this conviction is expressed, is under the protection of article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties.

According to the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and article 2 of the Dutch Drug Law (Opium Act), DMT is a prohibited substance. The public prosecutor argued that the limitation of rights of religious liberty of the accused would be justified by reason of public health. The prosecutor did not mention the violation of other items cited in article 9, such as public order, public safety, morals and customs, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Despite having in this case a prohibition by law, in the interest of a legitimate objective, mentioned in article 9 of the Convention (public health), the court cannot declare that the Drug Law serves this legitimate objective, but it must, according to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties, rule concretely whether in this case reasons of public health justify the limitation of religious liberty.

The specialist Prof. De Wolff describes in his report (written at the behest of the Judge of Instruction) undesirable effects of a mild nature, such as nausea, and also more serious symptoms of intoxication may be observed, for example in the form of high blood pressure or increase of the cardiac load. Also cited is the inadvisability of interaction between Ayahuasca and certain types of medicines or foods. His opinion is that the list of questions furnished to participants of the rituals, investigating the health conditions of individual participants, and the information about contraindications of the use of Ayahuasca, offer a complete, reliable presentation of the possible risks. The religious context implies, according to the specialist, that the production of Ayahuasca and its use during rituals is strictly controlled. Furthermore, the consumption is directly related to the rituals, and always takes place in the presence of individuals who have familiarity with its effects.

Based on these reports, the experts conclude that the use of Ayahuasca may be dangerous to health in individual cases. But the information supplied by the Church of Santo Daime is, in general, correct and sufficient. The limited availability of Ayahuasca, and the strictly regulated circumstances in which it is utilized, form a protection against any type of abuse. In view of this, and of the limited number of adepts, the conclusion of the report is that, according to the current scientific knowledge, it is unlikely that the use of Ayahuasca constitutes a danger to public health.

De Wolff testified to the court regarding the combination of Ayahuasca / Cannabis that the absence of scientific studies on the combined effects of these two substances does not give him reason to change his positive conclusion about the Church of Santo Daime.

In accordance with the report of De Wolff, the court concludes that ingesting Ayahuasca within the religious context of the Church of Santo Daime does not represent a significant risk to public health. Although, in certain cases, the DMT and the Daime tea may pose risks to health, the information furnished and the controlled use within the context of the religious community represent, in the opinion of the court, a sufficient guarantee against unacceptable health risks, and in these cases the use of the tea should be discouraged.

The safeguards provided by the religious context against abuse of the substance, mentioned by De Wolff, were also confirmed in the reports of Kranenborg and Snelders.

In addition, the public prosecutor failed to provide any concrete fact or circumstance that could serve as a basis for demonstrating any risk that the use of Ayahuasca could pose for public health.

In view of all this, the court reaches the conclusion that in the case of the accused, the prohibition determined by the Convention and by the Law against the possession and distribution of DMT, by function of which she could not receive, during the rituals, the most important sacrament of her religious conviction, presents itself as a real interference with her freedom of religion. This interference cannot be seen as necessary in a democratic society.

In this case, a balance must be sought between the interest of the accused that there be no interference with her right to religious freedom guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, and the interest of the state to fulfill its obligations relative to the Treaty on Psychotropic Substances to prohibit DMT. By virtue of the great importance placed on religious liberty, and of the circumstances that permit that the ritual use of Ayahuasca not result in a significant risk to public health, the court considers that, in this case, the protection of religious liberty must have the greater weight. This means that, in this case, article 2 of the Drug Law (Opium Act) loses its force.

In view of this, it is determined that there has been no crime committed under the law.


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