Arthur John Kleps (April 17, 1928 – July 17, 1999) was a psychologist turned drug legalization advocate whose Neo-American Church defended use of marijuana and hallucinogens such as LSD and peyote for spiritual enlightenment and exploration.
Kleps was born in New York April 17, 1928 to a Lutheran minister and his wife. In 1952 Arthur J. Kleps married Beverly Jean Rahn (born 1934), but the marriage was annulled in 1954. He was married in 1959 to a student at Syracuse University; at the time they met he was working as a psychologist at a prison in Auburn, NY. Kleps earned a BS and Masters in Psychology from Syracuse and by 1959, began working as a psychologist at the Lynchburg Training School in Virginia. The institution is notable for its role as a state mental hospital that was challenged for its role in the forced sterilization of patients in Buck v. Bell (1927) and Poe v. Lynchburg Training School & Hospital (1981).
Involvement in the psychedelic movement
In 1960, Kleps ordered 500 mg of a hallucinogen, mescaline sulfate, in the mail and ingested it. He experienced a psychedelic trip that influenced severe changes in his life and outlook. Kleps ceased employment with Lynchburg Training School, reportedly being fired in 1964 for writing a pro-marijuana paper. His wife divorced him in December 1966. Arthur Kleps joined Timothy Leary at Millbrook in 1967. He founded the Neo-American Church and sought protection for the right to use marijuana and hallucinogens as religious sacraments. He testified before the US Senate's Judiciary Committee in May 1966, defending citizens' rights to use these drugs to explore consciousness.
We are not drug addicts. We are not criminals. We are free men, and we will react to persecution the way free men have always reacted.
Eventually a test case in 1968 signaled the judiciary's unwillingness to extend the same rights to drug use to the Neo-American Church as is permitted to Native American tribes who use peyote for similar purposes. Kleps continued affiliation with the church. He later authored two books: The Boo Hoo Bible: The Neo-American Church Catechism and Handbook (1971) and Millbrook: A Narrative of the Early Years of American Psychedelianism (1975)
Kleps spent time in Europe, notably Amsterdam, where he accused American Express and the DEA of intercepting his mail containing travelers checks. He died July 17, 1999. His last official residence was Sacramento, California.
- Year: 1930; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll 1566; Page: 27A; Enumeration District: 542; Image: 627.0.,
- Ancestry.com. Social Security Death Index [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration. SSN=125-20-7423
- New York Times. February 28, 1959. p. 11.
- Poe v. Lynchburg Training School and Hospital
- Stafford and Bigwood. Psychedelics Encyclopedia 3rd ed. p. 116.
- "Erowid Art Kleps Vault". erowid.org. Retrieved 2017-04-10.
- Florida Divorce Index, 1966, p. 248. From Ancestry.com
- Erowid. Art Kleps. http://www.erowid.org/culture/characters/kleps_arthur/kleps_arthur.shtml. Accessed 2010-10-11.
- Washington Post. May 26, 1966. p. A3.
- Walter Houston Clark, Chemical Ecstasy (1969), p. 140
- Omer C. Stewart. Peyote Religion: a history. pp. 325-6.
- http://okneoac.com/dea.html. Accessed 2010-10-11.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-03. Retrieved 2010-10-11.
- Ancestry.com. Social Security Death Index [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.