Worshipers are flocking to the One True Universal Smokers' Church of God—whose "masses" are held in bars—since the Netherlands instituted a smoking ban July 1. Adherents claim their right to light up is protected as a religious freedom, Radio Free Netherlands reports. "I genuinely believe in the freedom God has given us. That includes the freedom to smoke," says one bar owner. "So I smoke in the name of God."
Opposition to the ban, not religious conviction, has fueled the recent membership surge. "You can't do anything in this country anymore,” one man says. “If I have to believe in a God to be able to enjoy a cigarette, then I'll do that!" With a crackdown looming, Smokers’ Church could face fines of $3,800.