United States v. Quaintance (CA10) (here);
Danuel and Mary Quaintance responded to their indictment for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute marijuana with a motion to dismiss. They didn’t deny their involvement with the drug, but countered that they are the founding members of the Church of Cognizance, which teaches that marijuana is a deity and sacrament. As a result, they submitted, any prosecution of them is precluded by the Religious FreedomRestoration Act (“RFRA”), which forbids the federal government from substantially burdening sincere religious exercises absent a countervailing compelling governmental interest.
After taking extensive evidence, the district court denied the motion to dismiss. It held, as a matter of law, that the Quaintances’ professed beliefs are not religious butsecular. In addition and in any event, the district court found, as a matter of fact, that the Quaintances don’t sincerely hold the religious beliefs they claim to hold, but instead seek to use the cover of religion to pursue secular drug trafficking activities.
After this ruling, the Quaintances pled guilty to the charges against them butreserved their right to appeal the district court’s denial of their motion to dismiss. They do that now. Because we conclude the district court did not err in finding the Quaintances insincere in their beliefs, we affirm its judgment.