A church that purportedly uses entheogenic plants like psilocybin mushrooms as a holy sacrament was raided by officers with the Detroit Police Department Friday just two days after having a newspaper article about them published in the Detroit Metro Times.
According to a follow up article by the Detroit Metro Times, officers confiscated about $700,000 Friday in psilocybin mushroom products as well as ayahuasca and iboga from Soul Tribes International Ministries at 15000 Southfield Freeway in Detroit. Officers with the Detroit Police Department confirmed the raid took place to the Metro Times but would not comment on what was taken or any other details about what happened there.
Owner of Soul Tribes, ‘Shaman Shu’ (formerly named Robert Shumake) said 15 officers from DPD showed up armed and masked, seized the mushroom products and ordered a closure of the church. Shu told the outlet he believes the actions taken by police were in violation of Proposal E, a 2021 city initiative that decriminalized the use of psychedelic plants and fungi like psilocybin.
“They stole ancient sacrament. 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 said to the Metro Times. “They think we’re not a church. 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.”
The original article said Soul Tribes was operating a “sacrament center” within the church where they sold dried psilocybin fruits, capsules and gummies to church members based on language in Proposal E that included using psilocybin therapeutically under the supervision of religious leaders, though they remain illegal under Michigan state law.
Regardless, Proposal E did not allow for the sale of entheogenic plants and fungi, which is likely where Soul Tribes ran into trouble with the police. The Metro Times asked for comment from the Mayor of Detroit’s office regarding the raid and whether or not DPD’s actions were sanctioned by the City, to which they received the following comment from Doug Baker, the city’s assistant corporation counsel:
“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,” Baker said. “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.”
DPD Sgt. for media relations, Jordan Hall, told the outlet, “My understanding was that [the raid] was due to a lack of licensing and the amount of substances that were distributed.”
Soul Tribes operates out of a long vacant church on the West side of Detroit on a 60,000 sq. ft campus which Shu purchased about three months prior to the raid. The church planned to open formally in November but the sacrament center opened over Labor Day weekend and Shu told the outlet all the products came from mushrooms he grew himself, citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as his legal defense for doing so.
“We have a right to our sacrament. We have a right to our belief system,” Shu said to the Metro Times before he was raided. “We’re a small indigenous belief system that believes we can heal the world with these techniques and our plants. You become a member of our church, just like you would any church, temple, or mosque. We’re no different.”
Shu had actually been in talks with DPD prior to the raid and emails reportedly obtained by the outlet showed they were working on setting up a meeting just the week prior.
“As you may already be aware, your ministry has definitely perked up some ears in the community,” said Sgt Crystal Johns in an email to Shaman Shu on Sept. 17. “Many of the questions and documented laws are above my understanding but the City’s legal team and our Police executives would like to have a conversation with you.”
No arrests appear to have been made and it was not immediately clear if Shaman Shu had any legal recourse for a lawsuit, though one Detroit attorney told the Metro Times Shu might have a precedent for his case. Shu maintained to the outlet that he was fulfilling his obligations as a religious leader and had a legal right to do what he was doing.
“We have a Percocet crisis, we have an Oxycontin crisis, and we have a fentanyl crisis,” Shu said. “It’s been proven that the sacred plant medicine has been used to heal people from mental health [issues], and that’s what this is about.”
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