Detroit's Psychedelic Church Shifts Legal Battle to Federal Arena

December 7th, 2023 Culture & Lifestyle
Cover Image

Note to Readers: While the primary focus of our platform remains cannabis-related news, we think it's important to explore the parallel happenings in the realm of psychedelic substances in Michigan, due to its close kinship and its potential implications for future policy-making in related fields. We hope you find the following article enlightening.

Soul Tribes International Ministries, known for advocating the use of psilocybin mushrooms as a religious sacrament, has recently escalated its legal battle by moving the case to federal court. The organization, operating inside Detroit's Bushnell Congregational Church, faced a significant setback when the Detroit Police Department raided the establishment on September 22nd, leading to a temporary restraining order and a nuisance claim against the owner, Shaman Shu, also known as Robert Shumake and Bobby Japhia.

In a notable development on November 6th, Shu initiated the transfer of his case to federal court, citing a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by the city's shutdown of the church. This move to federal jurisdiction marks a strategic shift in the legal approach of Soul Tribes. However, the City of Detroit has countered this action, petitioning on December 4 to remand the case back to Wayne County Circuit Court, emphasizing that the issue does not involve federal law and is more suited to regional jurisdiction due to its focus on local nuisance concerns.

The transition to federal court led to a significant change in legal representation for Shu. Initially represented by Detroit's Cannabis Counsel, the firm withdrew from the case on November 27th, citing both an "irreconcilable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship" and unpaid fees. The firm's departure followed Shu's decision to move the case to federal court without their knowledge. Shu is now represented by Florida-based attorney George Lake, who is licensed in multiple states and specializes in the free exercise of religion and the sacramental consumption of psychedelics/entheogens. Lake, who also represents clients in similar cases involving ayahuasca ceremonies, brings a unique expertise to Shu's defense.

This legal controversy centers around Soul Tribes' use of psilocybin mushrooms, which they regard as a holy sacrament. The church was selling these mushrooms from a "sacrament center" on its grounds. The Metro Times' coverage of the church in September preceded the seizure of significant quantities of mushrooms and marijuana by Detroit Police, along with the discovery of a laboratory for manufacturing these substances.

Soul Tribes and Shu now plan a $1 billion countersuit against the city, alleging racial and religious discrimination and claiming substantial vandalism and damage to the church property during the period it was padlocked. The countersuit highlights the church's claims of infringement on religious freedoms and seeks to address the economic damages incurred.

The case of Soul Tribes brings to the forefront critical issues regarding the interpretation of religious freedom, the legality of entheogenic substances, and the role of local versus federal jurisdiction in such matters. The outcome of this case could set a precedent for similar situations involving religious practices and controlled substances.

Share this article:

Spotted a typo, grammatical error, or a factual inaccuracy? Let us know - we're committed to correcting errors swiftly and accurately!

Missed an issue? Browse our newsletter archive to stay updated on past news!

Other Recent News

Michigan Marijuana News thrives thanks to the dedication and support of its readership. If you depend on our comprehensive cannabis coverage to keep you updated and enlightened, we kindly ask you to think about making a monthly commitment through Patreon. Every pledge fuels our mission and ensures the continuity of quality cannabis journalism in Michigan.
Become a Patron!

Upcoming Cannabis Events