Café owners in the Netherlands are joining religious movement known as the One and Universal Smokers Church of God, the Telegraaf reports on Wednesday.
‘We stand firmly behind the church’s teachings and that is smoking,’ Cor Busch, owner of the former Lindeboom café in Alkmaar told the paper. ‘Smokers are being discriminated against… but a beer and a cigarette belong together.’
Smoking has been banned in Dutch bars since July 1.
Several dozen bars have joined the movement which claims the Dutch constitution and European rules give it legitimacy under the right to freedom of religion, the paper says.
People who join the church get a membership card entitling them to smoke inside the building. Worshippers believe in the trinity of smoke, fire and ash and honour their god by smoking.
Church founder Michiel Eijsbouts says café owners who are trying to get round the ban on smoking will not be allowed to join. The church, he says, takes smoking very seriously.
‘It has ritual aspects, it is something you experience and we follow our faith very strictly,’ he told the Telegraaf.