Madison Rastafarian church founders in court on eviction case

The men who founded Madison’s Rastafarian church were back in court Friday for an eviction case.

Jesse Schwork and Dyland Bangert were arrested earlier this year on marijuana possession charges, but they argue they should be allowed to have those drugs based on their religion, Rastafarianism.

Schwork and Bangert opened the Lion of Judah House of Rastafari in March. The city of Madison sent the Rastafarian church a cease-and-desist letter in April. The Dane County Narcotics Task Force then raided the establishment in late May. They were subsequently charged with maintaining a drug trafficking place and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The self-styled church reopened in July.

Bangert is also facing one count of delivery of marijuana, while Schworck faces three distribution counts.

Schwork and Bangert rent the building for their church on Mifflin Street. The owner of the building is seeking to evict the church from that location because of drug activity. During the status conference Friday in the eviction case, the owner said the establishment is a public nuisance, and that the Madison building inspector said the tenants have not obtained necessary permits to operate as a church.

Both sides have to submit a briefing due by Oct. 11, and the judge will set an oral ruling on Oct. 16, according to court records.

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