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Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals tell drug dealer he can’t exercise his religious belief by distributing heroin

May 3, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals tell drug dealer he can’t exercise his religious belief by distributing heroin

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A drug dealer was rejected by a federal appeals court after he argued that selling heroin was “an exercise” of his “religious belief.”

Timothy Anderson was convicted on charges involving “conspiracy to distribute large quantities of heroin in St. Louis” in 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri indicated, the New York Daily News reported.

The convicted drug dealer, who represented himself in court, contested the conviction to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, asserting that the district court failed to consider his pretrial motion to dismiss the indictment because the prosecution neglected to adhere to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“In this, Anderson admitted that he distributed heroin, but argued that the decision to prosecute him under the Controlled Substances Act violated his rights under RFRA,” Judge Raymond Gruender wrote. “Anderson alleged that he ‘is a student of Esoteric and Mysticism studies'” who built “a religious nonprofit” to provide heroin to “the sick, blind, deaf and dead members of Gods’ Kingdom.” As such, he contended that the government’s choice to prosecute him violated the RFRA because his practice of selling heroin was “an exercise of sincerely held religious belief.”

Gruender, who was previously being considered by President Trump for the Supreme Court vacancy filled by Justice Neil Gorsuch, wrote that the federal appeals court’s opinion supported the lower court’s decision to reject Anderson’s appeal. Gruender stated that the district court did not conduct a hearing to evaluate the sincerity of the man’s religious beliefs, but added that “a reasonable observer may question how plausible it is that Anderson exercised a religious belief by distributing heroin.”

“Anderson does not allege that the recipients of his heroin used it for religious purposes,” Gruender continued. “Rather, he alleges that his distribution allowed him to exercise his religious beliefs. Thus, we have no difficulty concluding that prosecuting Anderson under the CSA would further a compelling interest in mitigating the risk that heroin will be diverted to recreational users.”

Gruender’s ruling also rebuffed Anderson’s claims that he should be allowed to present his defense to a jury.

“Anderson indicated that he would not stop distributing heroin under any circumstances, saying that he ‘does not want to compromise his faith,'” the judge wrote. “As such, we are convinced that prosecuting Anderson under the CSA represents the least restrictive means for the government to further its interest in the mitigating diversion of heroin to recreational users.”

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