Jesse Schwork, 39, and Dylan Bangert, 23, founded the Lion of Judah, House of Rastafari. The men will appear in Dane County Circuit Court for an eviction hearing on June 18. Schwork says he plans to fight the eviction.
The Rastafarian church is located at 555 W. Mifflin Street in Madison. The founders say the church is a cannabis sanctuary and members use marijuana as part of their religious practice.
The founders say the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protect them from being legally punished for using marijuana. The Madison’s City Attorney’s Office sent a cease-and-desist letter in April, saying there is no documentation to support Lion of Judah’s claim that the facility is a church. The letter also states that Lion of Judah is a church, it does not change the fact that marijuana is illegal in Wisconsin.
The church’s founders also filed a federal lawsuit in April, claiming the letter goes against their First Amendment rights.
Madison police served a drug search warrant at the property last week and arrested Bangert and Schwork on various drug charges.
Both men were also arrested again over the weekend. Bangert was arrested on charges of possessing THC and bail-jumping Friday night. THC is the active ingredient in cannabis. Schworck was arrested for disorderly conduct, along with two counts of bail-jumping Saturday morning.
As Madison365 recently reported, the founders of Lion of Judah are white and have been accused of cultural appropriation, but they consider themselves “black-hearted.”