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Geschrieben von: Jay Lindsay   
Samstag, 20. April 2002 00:00
Gloucester Daily Times
Unitarian Universalists say all drug use should be legal
Unitarians open new front in war on drugs
Associated Press BOSTON -- Drug use of any kind should be legal, according to the Unitarian Universalist Association, the first religious denomination to take the stance, church officials said.
The "Statement of Conscience" passed at the Boston-based association's general assembly proposes legalizing marijuana and making all currently illegal drugs available with a prescription.
The statement said the federal government's costly drug war is cruel and ineffective, and disproportionately affects the poor and minorities. It added that drug use is widely misunderstood.
"Drug use is erroneously perceived as behavior that is out of control and harmful to others," the statement reads. "... Yet many people who use both legal and illegal drugs live productive, functional lives and do no harm to society."
The statement was approved Saturday by two-thirds of the roughly 1,700 delegates at the General Assembly in Quebec, which wrapped up earlier this week.
While the statement may appear fairly radical, Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson, pastor of the Rockport Unitarian Universalist Church, points to many practical considerations that went into the decision.
"The philosophy behind the statement is twofold," said Farber-Robertson.
"By decriminalizing drug use, it takes the power out of organized crime and away from the power brokers who are not accountable," she said, referring to groups known for drug trafficking. "This is an attempt to disempower that whole covert infrastructure."
Farber-Robertson also said the statement is meant to call attention to how society allocates its resources in fighting crime.
A lot of people are put in jail for drug offenses that are essentially victimless crimes, she said.
"If someone wants to sit in their home and smoke a little reefer, it doesn't hurt anyone," she said. "There are more serious issues."
Farber-Robertson also said church members believe some drugs that are used to alleviate pain for certain illness should be available for people. She gave the example of cancer patients who sometimes use marijuana to combat the side effects of chemotherapy.
Charles Thomas, the head of Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform, said the statement reinforces the denomination's basic theological tenets, which stress compassion and justice.
He said drug abuse would be better seen as a medical problem, rather than a crime, and addicts would respond to "the transforming power of love," much better than incarceration.
"Ideally, people will not use drugs," he said. "We're not pro-drug. We're pro-choice on drugs, pro-honesty."
Robert Maginnis of the Family Research Council, a Christian public policy group, said the statement is well-intentioned, but misguided because it ignores the fact that drugs are harmful, whether they're legal or not.
"We don't want to make it easier for people to use drugs, we want to make it more difficult because of what they do to themselves," he said. "It's not the illegality of drugs that's at fault. Drugs are just bad for you."
The small, liberal denomination, with about 150,000 members nationwide, has a traditionally bucked the mainstream on social issues. Gloucester is the American birthplace of the Universalist branch of the denomination, founded in the late 1770s by John Murray.
Robert Fuller, a religion professor at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., said the Universalists advocated abolition, women's suffrage, and gay rights years before other liberal denominations followed suit.
"History tends to be on their side," he said.
But Fuller said the denomination's statement is unlikely to wield much theological influence on other denominations since it's seen as a far left group that largely rejected religious doctrine in favor of social justice issues.
Thomas said the Universalists' statement can spark growth, both in the denomination, and in a much-needed religious component of the opposition to the drug war.


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