The Oregonian, June 21, 1986, p. C1

Churches fight marijuana legalization

by Holly Danks

Officials of four Oregon church groups, representing a combined membership numbering in the tens of thousands, unveiled a plan Friday to attack from the pulpit the proposed legalization of marijuana.

Joining to form the Religious Coalition for a Drug-Free Oregon, leaders of the Salvation Army, Greater Portland Association of Evangelicals, Albina Ministerial Alliance and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon pledged during a news conference in Portland to fight Oregon's Ballot Measure 5, November's marijuana initiative, because "our country, our state, our city are faced with the abuse of insidious drugs."

The initiative would liberalize the marijuana laws by allowing the personal use of marijuana by adults, who also could grow it at home for personal use.

Randy Roth, president of the Greater Portland Association of Evangelicals, said he hoped the coalition would be able to put a coordinator in every church represented by the joint group "to disseminate the information to our constituencies." The evangelical organization includes 500 key churches in the metropolitan area; the Albina Ministerial Alliance is made up of about 45 dues-paying congregations in Portland, and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon represents 2,000 churches statewide.

Lt. Col. David P. Riley, commander of the Salvation Army in Portland, defended the use of church pulpits in the fight against the decriminalization of marijuana by saying that it was part of the regular religious instruction that churches have a moral obligation to provide.

The use of illegal drugs, Riley said, is "defiling the temple of God that is the body we have been given."

Seated at a table below a wall of stained glass windows in the foyer of First Christian Church, the Rev. John Jackson, vice president of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, told how his son's use of drugs broke up his family and cost him thousands of dollars .

Jackson said that John IV, who now is in the Army, started using marijuana as a 10-year-old elementary-school student in Northeast Portland. The younger Jackson then graduated to harder drugs and became unmanageable, his father said.

"It got to the point that I kept a weapon," Jackson said. "My son didn't act like my son. I got to the point where I thought if he came into the room I would kill him."

"Marijuana can be a gateway to other drugs," said the Rev. Rodney Page, executive director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, who also charged that studies have shown that marijuana use is harmful in itself.

Earlier this month, Page publicly criticized Portland School Board member Stephen Kafoury's plan to address a national convention of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Kafoury, citing "personal considerations," subsequently canceled plans to speak at Friday's session of the pro-marijuana convention, which is being held this week in Portland.

"I believe that the people who are working for the decriminalization of marijuana also are working for the decriminalization of heroin and cocaine," Page said at the religious coalition's news conference.

"To legalize marijuana is also to privatize a matter which has deep public world consequences," he read from a statement prepared by the coalition. "We learned this lesson all too well with the legalization of alcohol."

Describing the "abusive practices of marijuana use as inevitable," the statement declared the marijuana education and treatment programs "bankrupt," and said that religious groups of all denominations needed to "mobilize our common resources for prevention, education, rehabilitation and strict enforcement of existing laws."

Page said the coalition planned to raise money to fight the decriminalization of marijuana, but he couldn't say how or how much would be needed to work to defeat the ballot measure.


Portland NORML comments:

We leave it to all Christians to ask themselves - What would Jesus do if we gave this problem to Him? Would He build more and bigger prisons? Or would He build hospitals and schools?

Listen to me and understand this: A man is not defiled by what goes into his mouth, but by what comes out of it. -- Matthew 15:11

They forbid marriage and inculcate abstinence from certain foods, though God created them to be enjoyed with thanksgiving by believers who have inward knowledge of the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected when it is taken with thanksgiving. -- 1 Timothy 4:3-4

You must not take up an untrue report. Do not cooperate with a wicked one by becoming a witness who schemes violence. You must not follow after the crowd for evil ends; and you must not testify over a controversy so as to turn aside with the crowd in order to pervert justice. You are to keep far from a false word. And do not kill the innocent and the righteous, for I shall not declare the wicked one righteous. -- Exodus 23:1-2, 7

Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to you in sheep's covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they? Likewise every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit; a good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire. Really, then, by their fruits you will recognize those [men]. -- Jesus Christ, in Matthew 7: 15-20

There are six things Jehovah does hate; yes, seven are things detestable to his soul: lofty eyes, a false tongue and hands that are shedding innocent blood, a heart fabricating hurtful schemes, feet that are in a hurry to run to badness, a false witness that launches forth lies, and anyone sending forth contentions among brothers. -- Proverbs 6: 16-19

In later times, some shall ... speak lies in hypocrisy...commanding to abstain from that which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. -- Paul: 1 Tim. 4:1

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. -- John 8:32

I'd rather that England should be free than that England should be compulsorily sober. With freedom we might in the end attain sobriety, but in the other alternative we should eventually lose both freedom and sobriety. -- W.C. Magee (Archbishop of York): Sermon at Peterborough, 1868.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. -- C.S. Lewis, in "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment," an essay from "God In The Dock"

Additional recommended reading:

Getting Off Drugs: The Legalization Option, from the February 1996 Friends Journal, published by the American Society of Friends.

Marijuana and the Bible, an essay by Walter Wells of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, suggests that Jesus rejected the old wine, alcohol, and glorified the "new wine," marijuana.


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