An Oral History

The Centro Espírita Benficente União Do Vegetal (The Beneficent Spiritist Center Union of The Plants) is a religious tradition born in the Amazon rainforest. A central part of its ceremonial practice is an act of communion using a tea made from two plants which have acknowledged beneficial effects on human consciousness and spiritual awareness. This tea, known as Hoasca, has been used for thousands of years by indigenous rainforest cultures. In The Exercise of Conscience is an oral telling of the story of a successful legal struggle initiated by followers of this religion that was ultimately decided in the church’s favor by a unanimous United States Supreme Court decision. Due to the fundamental re-interpretation of the U.S. Constitution as a result of this ruling (as well as various international drug policy treaties), the case was formally acknowledged by the United States Department of Justice as “changing the landscape of the law as it relates to religious liberty”.

Jeffrey Bronfman post-victory addresses crowd on the steps of The Supreme Court

 Judge James A. Parker, who ruled in favor of the UDV in the US District Court of New Mexico

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, first female Supreme Court Justice

The nine Supreme Court justices including justice Samuel Alito, could not rule, having not heard the full case, because he replaced justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Chacruna leaves also used to make ayahuasca

Banisteriopsis caapi vine naturally growing in Amazon rainforest

Court Documents

Click link below to view International Treaty Amicus.


Click link below to view Medical Amicus.


Click link below to view Religious CSP Amicus.


Click link below to view UDV ParkerRuling.


Click link below to view UDV  Supreme OA transcript


Click link below to view Catholic Amicus.


Click link below to view Laycock Amicus.


Years in court
Religious & secular groups came to support the cause
Number of times the Federal Government tried to appeal this case
Number of people within secular/religious groups affected by outcome