MPD arrests 2 people after drug investigation at Lion of Judah House of Rastafari

Jesse R. Schworck
Jesse R. Schworck(NBC15)
Published: May. 29, 2019 at 10:25 AM CDT
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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.

"It's legal to practice your religious freedom, you know it's religious freedom to practice Rastafari. It's a religion, it's 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.

Police said there were no injuries as a result of the warrant. This is an active investigation.

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 people's 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.