High Court to Ponder

Medical Marijuana

The Supreme Court said this week that it will decide whether the federal government can prosecute patients who use marijuana under California's medical marijuana law.

California and eight other states -- Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington -- have passed laws that allow patients with debilitating diseases or chronic pain to grow, own and use marijuana. The Justice Department has continued to pursue medical users in those states as drug offenders, citing federal law barring all marijuana use.

A growing number of religious denominations have weighed in on the issue, urging the federal government not to prosecute patients who qualify for marijuana use under state laws. Most religious groups oppose recreational use.

The case in question involves two California women whose medical marijuana was confiscated by federal agents who raided their homes.

A panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in December that states are free to adopt medical marijuana laws so long as the marijuana is not sold, transported across state lines or used for non-medicinal purposes. Judge Harry Pregerson, writing for the majority, said using marijuana on a doctor's advice is "different in kind from drug trafficking."

The Bush administration appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that federal laws supersede state laws that make exceptions for medical marijuana. The court will hear the case in the next session, which runs October through June.

-- Bill Broadway

Islamic School Joins

Area Religious Group

The Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences in Leesburg has joined the Washington Theological Consortium, marking the first time that a Muslim school has become part of a major group of U.S. seminaries and schools of religion.

"While our primary mission is advancing Christian unity, one of the key objectives is promoting interreligious understanding," said the Rev. John Crossin, executive director of the consortium. "The unanimous vote of the consortium to bring together theological schools representing these two great faiths is a good first step in the process."

The Muslim school is an affiliate member of the consortium, as is the Interfaith Conference of Washington. The 10 member schools, all Christian, are the school of theology at Catholic University, the Dominican House of Studies, the Howard University School of Divinity, Washington Theological Union and Wesley Theological Seminary, all in the District; Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria; the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pa.; and three schools in the Richmond Theological Consortium. There are also four associated members.

The Washington consortium is one of 10 such cooperatives in the country. Others are located in such cities as Chicago and Berkeley, Calif. Typically, students at member and affiliated schools can receive credit for taking courses at other schools in the group, thereby increasing course selection and providing the opportunity to take classes from specialists in other religions.

-- Bill Broadway

Southern Baptist

Accused of Slander

The Baptist World Alliance says it was "slandered" by a Southern Baptist official who misrepresented the Falls Church-based alliance's position on homosexuality at the denomination's convention last month.

At their annual meeting, held in Indianapolis, Southern Baptist delegates -- called messengers -- voted to leave the alliance, a global federation of Baptist groups.

But the alliance's general secretary, Denton Lotz, said his group was mischaracterizedby Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Patterson cited "a continual leftward drift" in the alliance and complained of "gay-friendly congregations" in American Baptist Churches, a U.S. denomination of 1.5 million members that is part of the alliance.

The convention's news service, Baptist Press, said Patterson's comments were directed at a group of 50 American Baptist congregations in Washington state that belong to the pro-gay Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.

Lotz said the alliance's policy proclaims "the biblical definition of the family, a permanent, monogamous, heterosexual union, as the original divine plan for family life" and the foundation of society. American Baptist Churches cited a 1992 statement that "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" and said "the great majority" of its members agree.

The Southern Baptist Convention represented about one-third of the alliance's constituency of 47 million Baptists and provided $300,000 in annual funding.

-- Associated Press