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Inequity Unveiled: Oakland’s Minority-Run Psychedelic Church Raided in Violation of City Resolution

*Oakland, California* – The Ritual Church of Community Ceremony, a non-denominational, interfaith psychedelic church, is reeling from a recent raid conducted by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) with the assistance of the US Marshals. This distressing event not only violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act but also raises concerns of potential violations of the Racial Justice Act, given that the church’s board members are minorities. The OPD’s actions starkly contrast the operations of other psychedelic churches in the area, which are predominantly run by white males.

On May 20, 2024, the OPD executed a forceful raid on the Ritual Church of Community Ceremony, seizing $263,000 worth of sacraments, including cannabis, mushrooms, and cash. The church’s pastor was subsequently charged with possession and transportation of spores, among other felonies. The raid was reportedly conducted under a probable lie to secure a search warrant, further 5exacerbating the outrage and disbelief within the community.

This raid has left many of the church’s members, particularly veterans, without access to the sacraments vital to their spiritual practices and well-being. The targeted nature of this raid raises significant questions about racial and religious discrimination, especially given the glaring disparity in the treatment of minority-run versus white-run psychedelic institutions in the Bay Area.

A Climate of Rising Crime and Political Turmoil

Oakland, like many other cities across the United States, is grappling with a surge in crime rates. Homicides, robberies, and assaults have been on the rise, leaving residents feeling unsafe and vulnerable. Additionally, the city is currently facing a recall effort against Mayor Sheng Thao, with many residents expressing dissatisfaction with her leadership and the city’s handling of the crime crisis.

In such a climate, the raid on the Ritual Church of Community Ceremony raises questions about the allocation of police resources. With limited manpower and budgetary constraints, it seems perplexing why the OPD would prioritize raiding a minority-run church that has a long-standing history of serving its community. This is particularly concerning when considering that Oakland City Council Resolution 87731 explicitly forbids the use of city funds to enforce laws imposing criminal penalties for the use of entheogenic plants or psychoactive substances.

This resolution, passed to protect the rights of individuals using entheogenic plants for spiritual and healing purposes, underscores the city’s official stance against criminalizing the use of these substances. The OPD’s actions, therefore, not only contravene this resolution but also raise questions about the allocation of city resources during a time of financial strain and heightened concerns over public safety.

A Legacy of Community Service

The Ritual Church of Community Ceremony has been an integral part of Oakland’s inner-city communities, particularly in marginalized areas. The church has been a sanctuary for individuals seeking spiritual exploration and healing through psychedelics. Many of the church’s members are military veterans and first responders who have found solace and support in the church’s mission and sacraments.

Through various compassionate programs, the church has provided invaluable support to veterans and first responders, helping them cope with trauma and find a path to personal growth and healing. Additionally, the church has been actively involved in community service, donating personal care supplies to homeless encampments and participating in local food and toy drives. The church’s commitment to community welfare and social responsibility is well-established and widely recognized.

A Call for Justice and Accountability

The raid on the Ritual Church of Community Ceremony is not just an isolated incident; it is a reflection of broader systemic issues that need to be addressed. The church calls for a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the raid and urges the OPD, the US Marshals, and relevant authorities to address the potential violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Racial Justice Act. It is imperative that the rights of minority-led religious institutions are protected and that any form of discrimination is thoroughly scrutinized and rectified.

The church also calls upon city officials, community leaders, and advocates for racial and religious justice to support their cause. It is crucial to ensure that all religious institutions, regardless of ownership, operate within a framework of inclusivity, diversity, and equitable treatment. By fostering a more inclusive environment, we can collectively work towards dismantling systemic biases and promoting a more just and harmonious society.

The Broader Implications for the Psychedelic Community

The raid on the Ritual Church of Community Ceremony has broader implications for the psychedelic community as a whole. It raises concerns about the targeting of plant medicine and the potential impact on individuals seeking alternative healing modalities. The church has been a beacon of hope and transformation for many, providing a safe space for individuals to explore the healing properties of psychedelics. The seizure of their sacraments is seen as an attempt to hinder the progress of plant medicine advocacy.  

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