After denying UDV a building permit and faced with a Federal lawsuit alleging multiple violations of congressional and constitutional mandates related to religious liberty, the Board of Commissioners of Santa Fe County, last month, agreed to provide a construction permit to the UDV to build its small church. The church had been the target of a strident campaign funded by a small group of vocal opponents from the local area, who had pressured the political bodies to deny the needed permits because of evident misunderstandings and fear of UDV’s religious practice.
At the center of this controversy was the UDV's use of a psychoactive tea as a sacrament. The organized opposition had claimed that UDV’s sacrament made the church members a danger to the local community. Numerous scientific studies conducted by reputable universities and medical research centers internationally establish that this is not the case. During 10 years of prior litigation in the Federal Courts, including in the United States Supreme Court, the federal government failed to prove that there was any health or safety risk associated with the UDV’s use of its sacrament.
In settling the dispute, the County agreed to entirely vacate its prior order as not based on credible evidence, stating that "shall have no further force and effect and shall have no value as precedent for future applications of this applicant or any other applicant".
As a condition of settlement, in addition to granting all needed permits for the church to begin construction, the County also agreed, at its own expense, to install public utility services not currently available in the area. The Board of County Commissioners also agreed not to dispute the UDV's prevailing party status in the federal lawsuit and UDV, as a consequence, will recover its substantial attorney's fees and legal costs as provided for under Federal law.