“[Jesus] would have supported safe injection,” Harvey argues in a new essay published in the Portland Press Herald. “All too often today, people who use drugs are offered only two choices: Get sober or die. Jesus would have rejected this shameful and lethal binary.”
Harvey said there was a need for a church to apply harm reduction to the drug using community because “overwhelmingly, the churches I’ve reached out to aren’t interested in helping people who use drugs.”
They may act like they want to help, Harvey said, “but they won’t really embrace them as Jesus would have done.”
He adds, “They won’t provide them with what they often need most: sterile syringes, naloxone and nonjudgmental support.”
The “church” already has three sister churches in Bangor, Lewiston and Augusta, with plans for more in New Hampshire, Philadelphia, Rhode Island and Nepal.
“It is our sincere religious belief that people who use drugs (PWUD) don’t deserve to die when there are decades of proven health intervention solutions that can be implemented to save their lives and reduce the harms they face,” Harvey writes on his official website.
The Church of Safe Injection is applying for an exemption from federal drug statutes under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that will allow them to operate legally. Under this law, “other churches in this country have secured the right under the First Amendment to consume otherwise illegal drugs,” Harvey writes.
“We’re not even arguing that it is our right to use drugs or get high… We do not encourage drug use,” writes Harvey, who himself is in recovery and is the founder of Journey House Sober Living and Portland OPS (an advocacy group). “However, it is our sincere religious belief that people who use drugs do not deserve to die, not when there is a proven, cost-efficient, feasible, compassionate solute that can be so easily implemented.”
Mayor Ethan Strimling is among those in support of safe injection in Portland. “I’m always looking for new ways of trying to confront the opioid crisis, and what I’m intrigued about with this idea is it creates yet another opportunity for somebody who is using to have an interaction with a medical professional,” he said according to WGME.