Smoking was officially banned July 1 in Dutch bars and cafes. Since then, smokers have started flocking to a new religious movement in the Netherlands known as the "The Only and Universal Smokers Church of God," or the "Smokers Church." Michiel Eijsbouts, who founded the church in 2001, insists that the new smoking law does not apply to members of the Smokers Church. He says church members have a right to express their religion and they do it through smoking. Members of the Smokers Church profess to believe in a trinity of smoke, fire and ash, and their holy rite to their god is honored by smoking. People who sign up to join the church pay three British pounds and get a card that proves their religious affiliation to authorities. So far, the church boasts over 2,000 members, and over 100 bars and cafes have recently applied to the church to be considered "religious institutions." Mr. Eijsbouts said, "Converting people was not easy until the smoking ban, but now people are flocking to the church."
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