MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Two men have been arrested after a search warrant was served at Lion of Judah House of Rastafari on Wednesday morning.
Joel DeSpain, a spokesperson with the Madison Police Department, said the search warrant was served just before 9 a.m. at the location on W. Mifflin Street. It was part of a drug investigation.
39-year-old Jesse R. Schworck of Madison was arrested for three counts of delivery of marijuana and maintaining a drug dwelling.. 23-year-old Dylan P. Bangert of Madison was arrested for maintaining a drug dwelling and party to a crime of delivery of marijuana.
Some members of the church said all they are doing is practicing a religious right and said and what they are doing is legal.
“Its legal to practice your religious freedom, you know its religious freedom to practice Rastafari. Its a religion, its our sacrament,” said one church member, Jerald Sersch.
Rastafarianism is a religious movement that began in Jamaica in the 1930s, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Rastas believe smoking cannabis cleans their soul and brings them closer to God.
The city of Madison sent the church a cease and desist notice on April 12, detailing the church was in violation of several provisions of state law.
This is not the first time the church has faced controversy. Last Wednesday, a protest was held outside the church after people said the church allegedly posted inappropriate comments on social media about peoples race and sexual orientation.
Schworck, one of the men arrested on Wednesday and a representative of the church, said that was not the case and they treat people equally regardless of differences.
#HappeningNow Police issued a drug search warrant at Lion of Judah Rastafarian Church. Several were detained. We are live at 11 on @nbc15_madison with the latest information. pic.twitter.com/1hqqBhKhrE
A lot of @madisonpolice officers outside of the Lion of Judah House of Rastafari in Madison. The glass in the front door is smashed. I saw at least one person in handcuffs, put in back of an officers car. The church is known for selling marijuana, claiming its a religious right pic.twitter.com/5lgWqbPDj6