A Denver cannabis-dedicated church has been ordered to remove a sculpture, but its founder said the lawsuit is an attack on his religious freedom.
The International Church of Cannabis said the city’s order last month to remove a sculpture of a pink android is also a violation of their First Amendment right to practice their religion.
The city of Denver claimed the sculpture was unsafe for drivers on adjacent roads, saying that even if the church applied for a permit, it would likely be denied.
The eleven-foot pink sculpture, called Public Defender, was donated by the artist who created it and stands in front of the church at the corner of an intersection.
The eleven-foot pink sculpture, called the Public Defender, was donated to the International Church of Cannabis by the artist who created it.
The interior of the church, renovated in 2017, is painted with colorful psychedelic patterns. Its members are known as elevationists and use cannabis to enhance themselves.
Members of the church, founded in 2017, are known as Elevationists and use the ‘sacred flower’ of cannabis to guide them on journeys of self-improvement.
The church also functions as a tourist attraction and is ranked number seven on Trip Advisor’s “Top Denver Attractions” list. He routinely puts on light shows inside his converted church, which is painted in colorful psychedelic patterns.
Church founder, Steve Berke, told Fox News who demand to remove the art are hypocritical because they come from a city that considers itself liberal.
“You’d think that a liberal city, a liberal government, would welcome this cool new religion that welcomes and draws local people into the neighborhood and stimulates the economy,” Berke told Fox News.
“You’d think they would love us, but they don’t,” he added, alleging that the city had repeatedly had problems with his church.
The local media asked the visitors of the church denver7 if they agreed that it was a danger.
“Not at all,” said tourist Jason Pollock. ‘I think she is beautiful.’
Scott Donahoe, an engineer working in the area didn’t think it was a problem either.
“I think the parked cars are more in the way than the sculpture,” Donahoe said. “I don’t see it being a problem.”
Elevationists gather around the sculpture for 42-second meditations.
The city of Denver claimed that the sculpture in front of the church was a threat to drivers on adjacent roads.
Elevationists often gather around the sculpture for 42-second meditations reflecting on how to achieve a better version of themselves, an important ritual for the church, Berke told Fox News.
“I hope the city of Denver recognizes our right to exist and our right to have this religious effigy, this representation of freedom of religion that all Americans should have,” Berke told Fox News.
“The city of Denver is really encapsulating the perfect example of big government passing unnecessary laws that don’t protect anyone and infringe on our First Amendment rights,” he said.
Berke said the city sent him a letter last month telling him he had two weeks to apply for a permit or it would be demolished. However, the city’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure denied those claims in a statement to Denver7.
“The idea that we demolish in two weeks is ridiculous and would not align with any established practice,” the statement read.
The department claimed that Berke was confused about the two-week window. “The instruction the church received was to contact our permitting team within two weeks, not to ‘get’ the permit within two weeks,” he read in the statement.
But then days later, he sent another email, telling Berke he couldn’t stop the church from applying, but if he did, it would likely be denied.
The church was established in 2017 and dedicated to the use of cannabis for self-elevation.
“While we cannot prevent any City Trespassing Permit application, we have taken the time to review the photo and field inspector’s notes, and have reasonably determined that the sculpture as installed does not meet the minimum location, height and line of sight of the vehicle”. criteria,’ he said in an email viewed by Denver7.
Berke said he was upset that the verdict on the sculpture was predetermined and was evidence of the city’s unfair treatment of the church. He also argued that claims that the sculpture poses any threat are invalid.
“Whether you’re going here on Dakota Street or coming from Logan Street, the cars on Logan Street are more of an invasion than the sculpture,” Berke said.
“We’re showing people that if you fight for First Amendment rights, you’re standing up for your American freedom,” he said. “And that’s a really important thing, even in left-leaning cities and states.”