The Peipert Interviews
Date: Wed, 2 May 2001 02:24:44 -0600
From: "Thomas Peipert" <Thomas.Peipert@Colorado.EDU>
Subject: Peipert's Sacred Herb Church story
Here is the story I wrote about the Sacred Herb Church. I would enjoy any feedback, positive or negative, that you could offer. Sometimes some of the characters get messed up when I send stories through E-mail. If this happens, tell me, and I will send you a hard copy. Once again, thank you for your time. It was interesting speaking with you.
Fly Times Magazine issue #92 Vol.#1 April 20, 2001
Keeper of my Budder
by Thomas Peipert
A Jefferson Airplane tape plays on repeat while the Rev. Jahn Kefa carefully lifts a pipe adorned with crystals, feathers, polished stones and a jagged bear claw from its black vinyl case.
"That to us was the sacred pipe. It was the one religious item, such as the Torah for the Jews. It’s a ritual item that is only used for something holy," says Kefa—a minister for the now-defunct Sacred Herb Church in Boulder. The church was founded in 1994, and most of its constituents shared a common bond of smoking cannabis as a sacrament.
The church was an offshoot of a church founded in 1988 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. According to Kefa, a 38-year-old Kinko’s employee, the Fayetteville church cultivated cannabis as a holy sacrament, and in 1994, some of its members visited Boulder to ordain Mike Domangue, the founder of the Sacred Herb Church.
At first, the church consisted of "mostly Vietnam veterans and some grown-up hippies" and met in a motor home in East Boulder, Kefa said. Domangue would pass around "joints" and then pass around the Bible. "[Domangue] said, ‘You take a toke, and you read a verse.’"
The next year, they started to meet and smoke cannabis outside the Boulder County Courthouse.
"A few times the cops came. They didn’t know what to do. It’s hard to bust a church, because then you have this separation of church and state thing," Kefa said.
According to Kefa, Domangue needed a test case to prove that smoking cannabis was his legal right under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993—an act aimed at protecting the free exercise of religion.
One day he broke from the circle and went up to some police officers on Pearl Street. With a burning "joint" in hand, he blew smoke into one of their faces and said that it was his legal right, and they can’t prosecute him, said Kefa. Domangue was quickly arrested and went to court.
"An interesting thing about his court appearance was a result that apparently an agreement . . . was made between Boulder Mayor Leslie Durgin, City Attorney Joe de Raismes, District Attorney Alex Hunter and Police Chief Tom Koby that the church would receive a so-called ‘partial immunity’ and [the city] would keep the police near but out of the way during a church service," wrote Kefa on his Web site— http://members.tripod.com/~sacredherbchurch/
Durgin denied any such agreement. She said she recalls saying, "This city council is not in any way saying it is okay to break the law."
"Was there an agreement? Absolutely not. Did we look the other way? Probably," she said. "Did people kind of let it go? Yeah. The cops looked the other way. Sometimes it’s just easier to turn an eye and let it go once and assume it’s going to die."
After the court appearance, Domangue took his church to Central Park. Soon it attracted more than 300 people every Sunday—now a mixture of Vietnam veterans and younger participants—some as young as 13 years old, Kefa said. It was at about this time that Kefa became involved with the church. Then 33, he flew to Boulder from Long Island and began to look for a church. It was the spring of 1996.
"When I came out here, I was looking for a small group," he said. "I didn’t want the establishment type of church . . . . I had a few friends urging me about the Sacred Herb Church. Sacred Herb Church? Must be a bunch of Rastafarians. How can I relate to Rastafarians?"
He decided to visit the church one Sunday.
"I could not believe my eyes, because there were about 300 people gathered, and they all looked like hippies. I’m 33 years old, and I’m thinking all hippydom is gone. And here are 300 right here. I’m here two months, and I ask myself, ‘How did I miss this?’" said Kefa, who has admired the so-called "hippy" lifestyle since he visited San Francisco when he was 5 years old.
He soon noticed a radical personality in Domangue.
"When Mike turns in his two cents, it becomes dark and militant," said Kefa recalling a time when Domangue staged a bomb scare in the park to distract police from "hassling" participants of the church.
According to Kefa, Domangue told police that someone was trying to kill him, and that there was a live hand grenade under his van. "Police cordoned off the entire park," Kefa said.
This created a split in the church—with the Vietnam veterans meeting in Central Park and the younger participants meeting in Settlers’ Park, he said.
Kefa began to preach a different "word" to the younger participants. "I made it a solid point that the only way that we will prevail and be victorious is if we keep the peace with those who oppose us," he said.
The church continued to meet in its split groups, but the number of participants began to dwindle, said Kefa. In the spring of 1997, he set out to reform the church.
"It was about taking the foundation that was there and stressing the important parts."
At about the same time, he was ordained as a minister via the Internet by the Universal Life Church—a multi-denominational church based in Modesto, California, that, according to its Web site, believes in the pursuit of "spiritual beliefs without interference from any outside agency, including government or church authority."
According to Kefa, the (Sacred Herb) church changed significantly during that spring after what he called "The Great Meeting."
"The whole idea of getting ripping stoned. I took that away. Use a little bit to taste. You are not here to get intoxicated," he said of smoking cannabis. "It’s just like any medicine. You’re supposed to take a dose of it, not a whole bottle."
"A lot of people who just came there to smoke stopped coming," Kefa said. Towards the end of 1997, "The whole thing dwindled to a point where there were only four." Kefa distanced himself from the church and unsuccessfully ran for Boulder City Council. He later revisited the Sacred Herb Church.
"The only people who were there were people who were never there before—sitting there drinking and smoking pot," Kefa said. "I said, ‘I cannot accept this as being Sacred Herb Church."
"I came here for a brotherhood to be with. Not to get high."
His last Sunday of the Sacred Herb Church was in October 1997. Although no one came to the service, Kefa performed it anyway by blessing the ground with sage. "It was the only way to prove that I’m genuine," he said.
Its array of trinkets jingle and twist as he delicately puts the "sacred" pipe back in its case. "I find myself to be the surrogate father of this church, and I guard this with my life," Kefa says.
Author - Thomas Peipert
Unassociated Press Independent April 20th 2001
April 20, 2001
Interview Between Journalist Thomas Peipert and Surrogate Father of the Sacred Herb Church of Boulder, Colorado: Rev. Jahn Kefa who is Called "Joshua".
1) You call yourself a church. Why?
*In our Statement of Purpose, written by our founder Rev. Mike Domangue (Disciple of infamous Rev. Tom Browne of "Our Church", Fayetteville, Ark.),
it is declared that we are "An ~ALL~ denominational religious experience that will lead to a greater understanding of God.
Is there any spirituality involved with smoking pot, or is the church merely a social group of people with similar interests?
*There were two generations of this Boulder sect. The first was with Rev. Mike, He had an agenda to teach the spiritual quality of using Cannabis and other herbs; adopted from thousands of years of religious culture, from the Norwegians to the Ethiopians, from the Rastafarians to the Mayans.
The people who attended though were difficult to contain for him. The true meaning of Cannabis Consciousness got lost during his reign, and much too often the Cannabis was seriously abused, yet not always.
During the reign of "Joshua" - Which I was known as, a.k.a. Jahn Kefa; the church took a more solid step in the direction of respect and understanding of our purpose as a church, to discover the blissfulness of ~small~ doses of cannabis, the love between each other in a "Brotherhood-Sisterhood Family", and the realization of the two elements together that gave us an affinity to a relationship with God.
2) Was the group called a church so you could defend smoking pot by saying it is a religious belief?
*Again with the two generations, the political element was held at different positions of priority. For Sacred Herb Church, during Rev. Mike's reign, There was an extremist atmosphere that we had to be an "in your face" organization provoking confrontation with local and federal authorities; trying to obtain a "test case" to try the strengths of the RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act)- an amendment to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Mike wanted to fight for freedom of religion, and the free religious use of Cannabis.
When I, "Joshua", reigned; I brought a humbleness to the Church, and took them out from the "eye of the public" in Boulder's Central Park and found a quiet corner in a less visited park, Canyon Park. I, Joshua, knew that since the Church obtained partial immunity from City Government as a result of a court case with Rev. Mike Domangue; we were going to be safe to worship and smoke the Sacrament as long as we went along unnoticed by the tourists, which the City needs desperately for their tax revenue. And the fact that the agreement the City made with Domangue during Mayor Leslie Durgin's reign, was settled for the reason that Boulder didn't want to be "on the map" or in the news about an eventual supreme court case, about violating the "separation between church and state" laws.
In turn, they end up "on the map" shortly after, for the "Jon Benet Ramsey Tragedy. Could it be Karma?
We knew that in the end, if we were challenged by the Supreme Court, that the RFRA probably wouldn't even protect us. (and in fact was eventually repealed by the U.S. Supreme Court in July '97)
Since we figured we were far from that step, we knew that we would be left alone by authorities.
So, we were not using the term of "Church" for defense. Even our 'adopted Mother Church' "Universal Life Church" opted out on legal support for us, if it was for the defense of the use of the Cannabis.
The term "Church" is used because we gathered within the Spirit of God.
3) Are there any religious or spiritual aspects involved with the Sacred Herb Church?
*First we gathered outdoors in the parks to commune with the Earth. Second we sat in a circle to indicate equality. There was no-one preacher up at the front, who everyone would listen to. Even I, as Reverend was an equal Brother to the rest.
We invited people of every religious belief to sit with us and share with us, their ways and how they viewed God. We respected the fact, that each of us see God in a different light than one another, even despite the various religions we come from.
We celebrated holy days of a variety of religions.
Judeo-Christian, Native America, Ancient European Religions, Pagan Ways, Muslim, Earth Religions.
We observed the Seasons and Solstice and Equinox.
We commemorated moments in Humanity, The Holocaust,
Slaughter of the Native Americans, Anniversaries of Deaths of Great People and Music Legends.
We are Universal, We hold a respect for all Cultures; and people from many cultures visited us and shared their ways.
We performed traditional rituals, and we freely spoke from the heart during a forum period within our services. We shared joys. We shared pains and sorrows. We shared songs, music and our love.
We held our own style of communion.
We had a tradition of "Anonymous Giving and Anonymous Receiving". This is when each of us would donate something to the center of the circle, be it money, food, crafts, art, cigarettes or Herb. We would announce at the end: "If anyone feels a need to receive today, be it a gift, some love, some care; if you need a little money, or you feel hungry, please feel free to take what you feel you need from the center of the circle, but please always leave some items in the collection so there is enough for your brother or sister."
Any money which remained (which was always minimal), would go to the Church to purchase sage for the next Sunday or a little to help pay rent during the winter meetings.
Any trinkets medallions or feathers left behind, would decorate the one holy object that was the most valuable item the Church owns: "The Sacred Pipe" A virginal unresinated wooden smoking pipe used as a talking stick, passed around the group to indicate who had the floor and moment to speak before everyone.
"The Pipe" is virgin and unresinated for two reasons:
Out of respect for holiness, and to exhibit to government that they would have no right to confiscate it, because it had no illegal use; and as a metaphor that we have the freedom of religion, and the right not to be persecuted.
If "The Sacred Pipe" was ever confiscated, we would file a major lawsuit defending the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
We'd stand holding hands at the end of every circle, and shout out last moment prayers for each other. Everyone would hug one another in the end.
For example, what or who do the participants worship?
*At Sacred Herb Church, We would recognize that there is a God of Creation; We would recognize that each person and each culture views God in their own way.
Whether it was Jesus, a wrathful God, a Goddess, Krsna, Allah, or a great Amoeba in the sky.
One thing we all had in common, is that we agreed that there was a moment of Creation, and that it was with Consciousness. We would call out to It as a "Great Spirit" - respecting a Native American definition.
We worship with thankfulness that each of us are here alive, to have the chance to experience, this life of "Physical Emotion" and consciousness.
Yet what we follow, is each other. "I Follow You, You Follow Me!" Our doctrine insists, that we all lead; we each have something to offer that the other one doesn't have. We share our lives and find a "Oneness" between each other, a "Unity", when we have an equality.
Although within the structure of the Church, people will naturally fill different roles according to their personalities. Some of us, are made to facilitate the group, others are made to boost morale, others are made to sing and drum, others are made to listen. Yet we are all made to learn from each other.
Do they worship the herb, or do they worship a higher being. What do they believe in other words?
*We respect the Herb because it brings us to a level of consciousness that is unique from daily thinking and unique from any other mind altering substance.
It is a consciousness all its own with introspective and meditative qualities.
We worship our creation and know that we will always be together because we are a part of what we call "One". God is "One"! God to us is the whole of the sum of all of Its parts; and each of us is a part; a part of God. And if Humankind could ever "come together" with each other and all elements in the universe, we would be One. We would be God in a sense.
When together in a circle we virtually feel as, if we are One.
We describe that during Creation, the God Consciousness was One and whole. It desired for itself to grow, experience and mature. It divided itself in to Zillions of parts in order to achieve this; possessing zillions of life experiences all at once.
Being so omniscient, God virtually put itself into every possible position it could ponder and calculate, simultaneously. We as Humankind are one element and zillions of experiences God is having right now through us.
When God has matured, It will gather itself together again, all zillion parts of It. And God will be One once again.
Now if any of the participants disagreed with this common theory we taught, it was O.K.. We would not want to strip them of their beliefs, or what works for them. If we took away what works for an individual and tried to replace it with what we "think" would work for them, than we might just crush their spirit.
So people had the right and were encouraged to oppose us within the Circle.
Just like the Sanhedrin Council during Jesus' Day.
The Students of the Hebrew torah would gather and refute each other's explanations of Jewish law.
This was permitted and encouraged because no One man could be right. So this gave the opportunity for ideas to be tossed around from many minds and a thought on a topic could have the chance to evolve into a firm law.
So tell us that we're wrong and we will still love you and ask you back to attend another service.
4) What are your religious beliefs.
My religious beliefs in addition to what I just described are unique from the next persons beliefs and personalized from the Church.
I believe that we all came from the same origin and we all will eventually return to that same origin. In the meantime, each of us go on a seemingly endless journey of different lives and different atmospheres or dimensions; while our souls spiritually evolve; which in turn causes God's soul to spiritually evolve further.
In the sense of the "Common Era". I believe that Islam has the best understanding of God. I believe Jewish Law was put in place, in order to sustain a culture of families.
I believe Moses encountered beings of an advanced society when he received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai.
I do not believe in a virgin birth. I believe that Mary was impregnated by an incompetant black man from Cush (Ethiopia) and by tradition the man's brother, named Joseph took full responsibility of the well being of Mary and the child. The man known as Jesus was of both the White and Black race. The Story of Jesus is actually the telling of the lives of three men combined to make a story of one great messiah. The three men were Yehoshua, Yacov, and Saul (Jesus, James and Paul - for the layman).
I believe that Tom (the Apostle Thomas) the look alike brother of Jesus traded places with him and sacrificed himself on the cross. That gave the opportunity for a moment of resurrection. Jesus appeared in the flesh to his disciples and revealed the truth. The disciples prepared him for his escape eastward and Jesus fled all the way to India and imposed himself as Tom. When he died the truth was revealed and his tomb in India bears the translated name Isa (eesah) similar to Isis-hence the same name in Greek: Jesus.
Though I do believe in everlasting life, and that the soul of the "Christ" has his own mansion in God's House. I believe, because I myself, spent a lifetime living through Out of Body Experiences and saw the past and the future and spoke to many beings not physically alive on Earth. This is similar to the culture of Eckankar.
Although within the Church, I never imposed my personal beliefs upon the people. Who's to say that what I believe to be the truth, is actually the truth.
Do they (your beliefs) involve smoking pot as a sacrament?
*Smoking Cannabis for me is a God given gift. I respect it highly and refuse to call it by disrespectful slang such as Pot or Marijuana.
Cannabis Consciouness is a way of life for me. It is like meditation. Just the right amount or dosage, and I am at a holy peace with myself and the world.
I have found it in the book of Genesis and the Book of Moses to be a Herb Yielding Seed and a Fruit Yielding Tree and God said it was for our use as nutrition and it was all "Good". I have found it in Central America, in Rastafari, in Ethiopia, and in Norway.
Using Cannabis has brought great Peace into my life,
and I had to grow with it and learn its ups and downs.
It was a hard lesson, but now I understand its purpose in my life, and I have learned to use it responsibly, in small doses.
It is not the idea to get so stoned that you don't achieve anything. It is to be used to fine tune oneself one or two frequencies higher, to achieve that introspective moment, where you take time to take inventory of your thoughts and beliefs.
Cannabis to me is Sacred, yet I didn't realize the seriousness of this in my youth, yet I stiil always held it as a very special aspect of my life.
So today, it is Sacrament for me; even if I may only use it once every two weeks now.
And, please explain what you mean when you say the herb is the sacrament of the church.
*The Church holds Cannabis as Sacred. It is an "Herb of Peace". We respect it. We use only for its purpose.
We learn not to overuse it or abuse it so it remains sacred. It is used at special moments when we need Peace the most. It does not lead our everyday. It rescues us from the stresses of the world and gives us Respite. It reminds us that we each have a distinct connection with God, and we must take that moment to be with God. Every person must have an equal balance of Work, Love and Play in their lives. And this moment of Sacredness is all about Love.
This sanctifies our Grace!
We held our own style of Communion (A Union of us together) A Community in Union with God.
The Ritual Consisted of using Sage, Water, Bread, and Cannabis. We would hold up each element for all to see and speak its meaning. Then pass it around the Circle for each person to partake. It was O.K. to refuse to partake too!
The Sage represented our togetherness as One. Our Family. Its aroma seems to capture our love for each other and is used in blessing and cleansing one another spiritually.
The Water is the breath of life. All things came from water. It is what sustains us and it is what helps us grow and continue to function. It grows our food and washes away the filth. We used it as opposed to wine refuting the Catholic Church which also administered it to their children. To us Alcohol is a poison, a derivative and not naturally given by God.
The Bread represents the physical life. Our Bodies, Our pains and woes, Our successes and failures. Our lust for physical contact and our hunger for food for growth. Our Life and Death.
The Cannabis represents our Consciousness our connection to a higher mind and relationship with God.
It represents the Peace we have found in each other with each other.
It was sad to see things fall apart when the RFRA was repealed. Many of the people ran away when they saw the State Sheriffs repeatedly storm the Rev. Mike, and the Reverend Evan had his family broken up by Child Services, and as for me, the local police set up hidden camera's and wires around our Sacred Circle which I exposed. It didn't feel safe anymore, there was no peace of mind, or the chance to relax with each other anymore. Sure we held reunions and one extravagant one back in central park complete with rock concerts and a crafts market in 1998. It seemed more like a finale`.
We hope to revive the spirit but the embodiment I'm sure will be different, when ever that occurs.
Thank You for the opportunity to speak about our lives Tom.
Rev. Jahn Kefa
Thank you very much for your time. It was a pleasure
speaking with you.
Later that day...
>From: "Jahn Kefa"
>> Dear Thomas Peipert:
>> Thank You Very much for your interest in the Church. I hope you enjoyed
>your time with me today; and I hope our meeting was fulfilling for you. I
>appreciate that you would pick me to interview about the Church.
>> I may have left out a detail or two that you may want to clear up.
>> Let me point out a couple of things.
When I began to Facilitate the meetings, at the end of January 1997, I
insisted that I was not to be looked at as the leader; "...fore everyone
But it was at the "Great Meeting" that the core group which we called the "Inner Circle" spoke up and said that "Joshua seems to know how to keep things together, he knows how to run things like Mike did, he should be our leader!" I, Jahn Kefa known to the people as Joshua then, refused to be looked up to that way. When I saw that the Circle insisted again and again; I finally accepted several meetings later that I would be their facilitator and teach them how to run a group like this. One man stepped up and said he was willing to learn, that was Lorenzo who eventually became the "Reverend Lo". The saving grace of Sacred Herb Church to this day.
I was still looked at as their leader, and to this day the old Inner Circle still greet me as that, when they see me on the street, always asking me, when is it all gonna happen again?
Eventually it did boost my ego a bit, and I fit well into their role as their Leader. But I always fought myself to remain humble and not let it get to my head, and get carried away with it. ...and I did that well. Especially when some of the visiting ladies to the Church tried to gain my attention; I remained reserved from them, and only allowed myself to be portrayed as their brother and nothing more. No Womanizing for me!
The other point, is that today; as Hand-to-Mouth Ministries-ULC, besides the Free Lunch named "Family Picnic in the Park" on Saturdays from Easter to Thanksgiving in Central Park; Our Ministry has five Ministers all doing their own thing. One who councils Runaways, One who teaches Art and Meditation, One who promotes Family Values and Community Involvement, One who runs the "Picnic", and me, who fund raises, produces awareness videos (often about Government Negligence, and Prejudice on Community Television Channel 54), and also designing a new gathering of a Circle Church that would bring people together with live music and song.
another response Later that same day
There was another detail which we didn't discuss.
It is the Sabbath, or Shabbat. Even though our Sunday meetings were as equivalent to a Sabbath as could be, and that it coincided with the Christian observation of Sabbath, we declared that this was not the actual Sabbath.
We would respect the elements of Sabbath at our meetings, but would teach regardless what the Catholic Church had established, the historical observation of Sabbath is Saturday, and here in the hemisphere of the Americas, We would begin its observation on Friday night. You might ask why then wouldn't we hold our meetings on Saturday or Friday night?
It is because Sunday is more common for people to be off from work and more available to be willing to gather. It is a service for the people and scheduled for the people out of convenience.
Rev. Kefa, Here are some of the answers you gave me. I think this is all
(other than the group I sent you before). I hope this helps you. Sincerely,
-- Hello Thomas: I know I gave you a lot of information, but I wanted to ad to the question about what my personal beliefs are. I also believe that the one thing that made the Jesus Apolistic Sect Stand apart from the other Jewish congregations is that they used bread with a certain mold culture grown on it for a sacrament. This was common in that era for people to use molded breads as mind altering substances. People would hallucinate and have visions after inducing bread molds. It is noted along with many of my beliefs in evidences gathered in the field of research known as: "The Historical Search for Jesus". Again I never imposed these evidences or beliefs upon the Congregation. It could shatter peoples lives if I refute the traditional Jesus. This church was not meant for that. This church belonged to the people themselves. ~Jahn
Completo, Finito, So-Dun, Kaput, Finished, the End