Hollywood, CA – The case of the Liberty Bell Temple vs. the City of Los Angeles took an interesting turn on August 11, 2010 when the Office of the City Attorney released a press release stating that the Liberty Bell Temple “had halted their case for preliminary injunction against enforcement of the city ordinance following live testimony and expert declarations by officers involved in enforcement actions against the location.”
However, the constituents of the Liberty Bell Temple are making it exceedingly clear that they have in fact expanded their case against the City by joining another lawsuit attacking the validity of the new city law. The Temple has also filed a one million dollar lawsuit against the city per a raid conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department on July 14, 2010. (NOTE: Docket # BC442591)
The Liberty Bell Temple, located at 5642 Hollywood Blvd, is a Rastafarian Temple that services the needs of The Rastafarian Community. Not listed among a posting of medical marijuana dispensaries subject to recent closure, Ed Forchion aka NJWeedman, director of the Temple, states he was falsely charged with a misdemeanor city code (LAMC – 184.108.40.206) for failing to cease operations. Noting that nothing in the code calls for a seizure of property, Forchion revealed that the LAPD confiscated three pounds of medical marijuana, almost $7,000 of supplies and all the cash on the premises, after dismantling their surveillance system.
“The City Attorney’s press release demonstrates the length the City will go to twist the truth. In fact, we decided to not ask for a preliminary injunction on the Liberty Bell Temple because the City and Officer Jaffe stated on the record that they would not raid the Liberty Bell so long as it was a temple. The case against the City still continues. In fact we are still seeking a court injunction and monetary damages from the night of the raid,” cites David Welch Esq. of D|R WELCH Attorneys at Law P.C.
Adds NJWeedman, “The raid on our Temple is another example of the religious intolerance prevalent in this country. City council is fully aware, per the “Craig X Rubin” case that there are spiritual/medical users of marijuana and yet has now moved to stop us from operating”.
“In my opinion,” he continues, “this new ordinance is clearly unconstitutional for its failure to protect the religious freedom of our members. The U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Lukumi case states ‘if a law allows secular exemptions, governments must have a compelling reason for refusing religious exemptions. Lukumi, U.S. at 537.”
“Thus, where a rule requiring police officers to be clean-shaven had an exemption for medically motivated beards, Lukumi required an exception for religiously motivated beards. See: Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Newark 170 F. 3d 359, 366 (3rd Cir.) In our case, the city is allowing 170 secular medical marijuana facilities to operate, but launched this military style raid against our house of worship on July 14th, because we provide medical marijuana to our members from a spiritual perspective. City council doesn’t have a compelling reason to not allow us to provide marijuana for the spiritual/medical needs of its population. Easily the city could amend its new ordinance to allow for religious/medical use. Instead, city council is trying to prevent our Rastafarian Temple from existing here in Los Angeles,” concludes Ed Forchion.
To track NJWeedman’s legal battles, support his case and contribute to his defense fund, log on at http://www.libertybelltemple.com/defensefund.