Detroit cops raided a “psychedelic church” that uses shrooms as a sacrament, just days after a local media outlet published a cover story on the church.
This past weekend, 15 armed cops raided Soul Tribes International Ministries and reportedly seized over $700,000 worth of psilocybin mushrooms. According to a search warrant obtained by the Detroit Metro Times, a court authorized the Detroit Police Department (DPD) to seize all shrooms from the “illegal dispensary inside the purported church” as well as “all books, records, receipts, notes, ledgers, and other papers relating to the procurement, distribution, storage, and transportation of controlled substances.”
“They stole ancient sacrament,” said Shaman Shu (formerly known as Robert Shumake) to the Detroit Metro Times. “It was prayed over and meditated over. It’s a healing sacrament... They blocked my property down without due process. You can’t do that.”
Shu argued that the raid was a violation of Proposal E, a psychedelics decriminalization measure that 61% of Detroit voters approved in 2021. This local ordinance directed the city to decriminalize the “possession, storage, propagation, provision, transfer or sharing of Entheogenic Plants with another adult or adults with or without remuneration under the advisement or supervision of a licensed therapist, medical professional, or religious leader.”
Proposal E only decriminalizes shrooms “to the fullest extent permitted under Michigan law,” though, and state law still classifies all psychedelics as illegal drugs. Local cops and city authorities also claimed that Soul Tribes was distributing shrooms, which is not protected under the decriminalization ordinance.
“The Detroit Police Department worked in close coordination with the city’s law department and building safety, engineering and environmental department in preparing this enforcement action,” said city assistant corporation counsel Doug Baker to the Detroit Metro Times. “It is the law department’s position that this local ordinance, despite its intent, does not override state law, which considers psilocybin to be a controlled substance. Most importantly, the city ordinance itself does not allow for the sale or distribution of psilocybin.”
Soul Tribes was slated to formally open in November, but it opened early for an initial ceremony over Labor Day weekend. Shu had actually already reached out to the DPD to explain his beliefs and practices, but cops decided to raid the church anyway. City officials have forbidden Soul Tribes from opening again, but Shu plans to sue the DPD and reopen the church next week.
“They think we’re not a church,” Shu told the Detroit Metro Times. “But that’s why the federal government was created, to separate church and state so that cities do not opine on what churches are [and] what ministries are. We’re a ministry and a religious organization... That’s a total religious right discrimination. Why would you come and shut down a 100-year-old building, because there’s been a shift in belief systems? You’re saying that we’re not allowed to practice our African sciences.”
The separation of church and state generally does not allow religious institutions to skirt federal drug laws. The feds did eventually agree to allow recognized Native American nations to hold traditional peyote ceremonies, though. Since then, several other churches have now attempted to use this same religious freedom to establish psychedelic churches throughout the US, but local cops have generally not been willing to respect their freedom.
A very similar situation recently played out in Oakland. In 2020, local cops raided Zide Door Church, a local worship center for the entheogenic-focused Church of Ambrosia. Just like Detroit, Oakland has fully decriminalized the personal use of natural psychedelics, but local cops claimed that the church was selling shrooms to its members. Zide Door argued that it was actually giving out free shrooms to members who paid a monthly donation, and sued the cops and the city for raiding its premises.