How do people feel when they
come to worship God at their church and find that the door has been broken
in, the sacrament desecrated, the reverend beaten and jailed by police, and the
land confiscated by politicians?
Ask a member of the Church
of the Universe. They believe in the sacredness of marijuana, they believe in
nudity as the expression of humanity, and they have been persecuted by
governments and police since the church's inception on August 9, 1969. Since
that day, the church's mandate has been:
"...to worship God and live with the the Tree
of Life, Marijuana, in harmony with the Universe. We, God's people, believe
that it is our responsibility to defend our right to our sacrament, the Tree
of Life, and encourage the worship and adherence to the Law of God to earn
the right to the Tree of Life and The Water of Life..."
Since the church's inception,
founder Reverend Tucker and his fellow members have adhered to the church's
mandate. The result has been numerous arrests, court cases, search and
seizures, and even some strange victories for the Tetrahedron High Council,
the leaders of the church.
There was once a time,
however, when church members could stroll naked in a forest of hemp, smoking
their sacrament, and bathing in clear waters. Their holy smoke wrote God's
word into the sky, too soon erased by the prevailing winds.
THE BIRTH OF THE CHURCH
In the late 60's, Walter
Tucker was a family man. But his wife and family would leave him as he
devoted his life to worship and the divine weed.
I can imagine Tucker the day
he decided to seek God through the enlightenment of marijuana. Standing with
his friend, Fran Fralich, on the ice of a quarry
that had long ago been reclaimed by water, getting ready to dive in and swim
around the quarry's frozen depths with a wet-suit and tank. For Walter
Tucker, the freedom of the swim became the vision of a kind of spiritual
freedom. He turned to Fran and announced, "This is where I want to live.
This is where I want to die." He meant it.
Tucker soon spoke to the
owners of the place, Canada Cut and Crushed Stone, and they agreed to let him
stay there for up to 100 years, for a small monthly lease rate, as long as
Tucker took care of the place. On the 360 acres of wilderness and spring-fed
quarry, Walter Tucker blessed the land with a new name, "Clearwater
Abbey", and founded a new religion, the Church of the Universe.
The Hempy 70's
Reverend Tucker, first high
priest of hemp, grew his hair and beard long and began to wear hempen cloth.
The church was inundated with new members. Buildings were erected. Church
members shared their bare skins with the sun and rocks, partaking freely of
their sacrament. The Tree of Life took hold in the soil, drinking from the
wellspring of the quarry, and grew.
As the forest of hemp grew, so
too did Reverend Tucker's vision, planted firmly in the earth of Clearwater
Abbey. "I want to save the world," he said, "and I'm ready to
start right here in Canada."
The church refused no-one access to the quarry's
waters. Like holy men of the past, Reverend Tucker welcomed everyone. From
seminarian students to "samaritan" bikers
- all were welcome. A council of the church's foremost leaders, the
Tetrahedron High Council, was formed. From the hempen circle of members that
congregated at Clearwater, Reverend Tucker began ordaining ministers and
It would be the very members
Reverend Tucker welcomed into the church that would attract negative
attention from the outside world. When anything went wrong, the media
hastened to blame unidentified "bikers" who had joined the church.
For example, in 1975, a body
was found somewhere on the 360 acres that comprised Clearwater's lands. It
was badly decomposed, and may have been there before the church's inception.
No church member was ever implicated in the death. Yet, even in the 90's,
without a shred of evidence, the media continues to claim that unidentified
"...bikers who frequented Clearwater at the time, drawn by its seclusion
and pot-smoking activities"1 could have been somehow responsible for the
Despite some bad publicity,
the decade of the 70's was a hempy era for the
church. Yet by the end of the decade, the church had become a sacrificial
goat to the corruption of corporate Canada. So began an era of persecution.
CLEARWATER ABBEY PILLAGED BY INDUSTRY
Reverend Tucker: "There is no other home.
This is where God sent me."
Canada Cut and Crushed
Stone, which had allowed the church to live on the land for so long, was soon
to be absorbed by Steetly Industries, a powerful
company with international interests, and a dislike for Reverend Walter
Tucker and his faith.
The year is 1982. June at
Church of the Universe's spiritual Jerusalem. Reverend Tucker and other
church members are resting naked on blankets and upon the warm rocks that cup
the water of the abbey like a baptismal fount. A blessing of sacrament hangs
in the summer air. Then, without warning, a metal beast is let loose among
the faithful. Car engines and carbon monoxide assault the peace. Church
members are forced to flee as cars drive right up onto their blankets. It is
time for Steetly Industries' annual staff picnic.
They had given church members
only last-minute notice to clear out, and Reverend Tucker had refused their
Reverend Tucker recalls,
"Jo-Anne and I sat here at the front, and they wouldn't even slow down
going through the yard. In fact they sped up. It was like someone walked into
a restaurant along with all his friends, smashed the dishes, insulted the
help, ordered the whole menu and in the end refused to pay for
The automobile attack was the
latest in Steetley's attempts to force church
members off of the property. The year before they had tried raising the rent.
"Then they prepared a lease that said I'd never lived there,"
Reverend Tucker says, "that I didn't live there now and that I wouldn't
live there in the future. I didn't sign it."
When Tucker complained about
the automobile attack, Steetly casually asked him
to send them a bill. Tucker's bill was for $1,900,000. When Steetly refused to pay, Tucker began to deduct his rent
from the amount owing. The matter eventually came to court, and the judge
sided with Steetly, against the marijuana
Reverend Tucker was eventually
denied an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The next day, a writ of
possession and notice to quit were served against Reverend Tucker. He was to
be forced from his home.
Police Evidence, Videotape, June 17/86
Several large Police
Officers and the Sheriff of the County of Wellington confront Tucker at the
door of his dwelling-house. He stands there clothed only in his beard. Tucker
reveals to the officers that their documents do not conform with the judge's
order, and asks them to leave.
Reverend Tucker: "You are
trespassing. I am asking you all to leave."
Police: "We have no intentions
of leaving. Unless you leave immediately, you will be charged with committing
a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada and placed under arrest."
Reverend Tucker: "What
are you going to charge me with? Am I under arrest? Will you get out of my
The police officers refuse
to move and allow Tucker free passage, even though they have asked him to
leave. Then two of them grab him, twist his arms behind his back and falsely
charge him with obstructing a police officer. After removing Tucker, the
police proceed to remove Sister Jo-Anne Tucker, and Reverend Michael
Baldasaro, charging them as well, even though their names are not on the
Reverends Tucker and Baldasaro
Remember the Eviction
"We had originally
been illegally removed from Church Property by 30 SWAT Ontario Provincial
Police who refused to let us put on our clothing. Her Majesty's minions
chained us, wrapped us in orange plastic blankets, threw us into the back of
a paddy wagon, dragged us away to a jail cell and then to court where we were
forced to appear before a Justice of the Peace for a bail hearing in
Church members still wear
blankets to court as a visual protest of the injustices they suffer at the
hands of the police and courts.
THE BATTLE FOR JUSTICE AFTER CLEARWATER
The Prosecution Attempts to Cover Up
Details of the Case
The charges of resisting
arrest and obstructing a police officer were eventually brought to trial.
However, rather than let the police video tape come to public attention, the
prosecutor failed to provide Tucker with any information regarding the
arrest. Tucker's right to full disclosure was ignored.
On July 10, 1989, Provincial
Court Judge Bruce Payne stayed the charges against Reverends Tucker and
Baldasaro, and Sister Jo-Anne. During the aborted proceedings Judge Payne
acknowledged "Clearly there has been an abuse of the legal process by
the Crown attorney."
Ontario Provincial Police beat Elderly
Reverend Tucker Unconscious
On July 12, 1989, two days
after the court decision, Reverend Tucker and Sister Jo-Anne returned to the
site to swim. The media were there. The police were there. But no one seems
to agree about what happened next.
In the September 1989 High Times Magazine, Tucker
reports that, "The last time I talked to the cops (OPP),
I told them I had a right to my land, showed them the papers and told them I
was going for a swim. The next thing I knew I was in the hospital. The media
was there and lots of people with cameras. They all saw it and some tell me
that after I turned around one of the cops punched me in the kidneys and I
fell into the other one. Then they just started beating me. I might have been
a little lippy but I'm a non-violent person."
The Guelph Mercury, on July
17, 1989, reports that "When Tucker entered the laneway into the
conservation authority, a struggle ensued and he was placed under arrest
[for] ...trespassing and resisting arrest."
Four years later, the Guelph
Mercury, on October 28, 1993, claims that "He [Tucker] was arrested and
grabbed and everyone fell down in what police described as a struggle."
The police contend that the
struggle happened first, and that the arrest happened afterward. But Reverend
Tucker and the Guelph Mercury story of July 17, 1989, seem to agree that the
"struggle" (or beating) happened before the arrest Ñ a violation of
human rights dating back to the Magna Carta.
Note how, in the October 28,
1993, article, the Guelph Mercury has rewritten its story to conform with the
story of the arresting officer, Jim Christie. The paper now contends that
Tucker was "arrested and grabbed", rather than grabbed and then
arrested. Never is there a mention of "excessive force", even
though Reverend Tucker, a man in his early sixties, had been beaten
unconscious and placed in the hospital by an armed "Officer of the
The next day, Reverend Tucker
announced plans to hold a "Nude Olympics" at the swimming hole. He
was again arrested and charged with trespassing and resisting arrest. He and
other church members were eventually forced to stop frequenting Clearwater Abbey.
Industries seemed to need the land, it was later sold to the Hamilton Region
Conservation Society. Clearwater Abbey's church and residence was then
bulldozed. The site remains unused to this day. And the church's battle for the
property goes on.
"We will win,"
Reverend Sister Jo-Anne Tucker asserts, "We'll get our place back if I
have to fight them to my dying day." Reverends Tucker and Baldasaro also
believe that, through their efforts in court, Clearwater Abbey will be
returned to them soon.
THE LONG HARM OF THE LAW
Attacks on the church
forced it to transform itself, to become a fluid entity - a prerequisite to
survival. From the church flowed a need to defend itself from government and
industry, a need which condensed and became the Faculty for Legal
Self-Defence (LSD), an arm of the church's Universe University.
The faculty demands that
students demonstrate what they learn in practical exercises: degrees are
earned for preparing and defending real court cases. A doctoral degree is
awarded for defending a case in Supreme Court, a complicated legal maneuver
many lawyers never undertake.
Some of the church's most
noteworthy cases have involved possession and trafficking charges. Throughout
an innumerable number of cases, the Tetrahedron High Council is patient and
outraged, stoic but also wrathful. They are like a three-part Moses, waiting
for the red sea to part, so that they can lead their people to freedom.
Reverend Baldasaro Jailed for Silence
In 1984 Reverend Baldasaro
is caught with the Tree of Life, marijuana, and arrested.
At the trial Reverend Baldasaro sits before the
judge like the statue of a saint. He is still and silent, imbued with the air
of righteousness befitting a holy man.
Because the good reverend
refuses to say anything, the Justice Borkovich decides to render a decision
about the church's belief in marijuana as the Tree of Life Ñ without a single
piece of factual evidence upon which to base a conclusion:
"...I don't know if
you [Church of the Universe members] burn it or you smoke it or whether you
eat it [marijuana]. One would have thought that if it was a sine qua non of
your faith that we would have heard some evidence as to the manner of how
this became important to you in your faith. That is another reason that I
believe the whole matter is a con."2
Baldasaro is sentenced to
six months in jail. He makes plans to appeal. By law, factual evidence is
necessary before a judge can render a decision in regards to a person's
charter rights. In rendering his decision, Justice Borkovich has broken the
Police Steal Money and Sacrament from
It is November 9, 1990. Reverends Walter and Jo-Anne
have performed their sacred duties for the day and gone to sleep.
At 11:45 pm, their door explodes into a shower of
splinters and glass, as police officers shatter it with a sledge hammer and
then shout, "Warrant!" The police have just violated a Supreme
Court of Canada ruling (1981, Colet vs The Queen),
which states that "Police are never justified in entering onto private
property unless they announce their presence and demonstrate their lawful
authority with a warrant."
Not only do they fail to display a search warrant before
entering the private residence, they cannot even produce a valid search
warrant when Reverend Tucker stumbles out of his bedroom stark naked and asks
to see one.
Knowing that they are acting illegally, the RCMP and Hamilton-Wentworth police then proceed to search
the home anyway. They steal 3.5 pounds of church sacrament, $18,000 dollars
in cash and silver, and continue to ravage the Tuckers' private home. They
also charge Reverend Tucker and Sister Jo-Anne Tucker with possession for the
purpose of trafficking.
When the matter comes to court, Justice Joseph Scime
denies Walter and Jo-Anne a trial by jury - yet another violation of basic
human rights dating back to the Magna Carta. Trial by jury would have focussed public attention on the case, and on the abuses
of the RCMP.
Rather than engage in an embarrassing trial, Justice Scime
acquits both Tuckers, even though both have refused to testify or even
In the local media, the facts of the case are altered.
Although the Tuckers have refused to even testify, The Spectator reports
that, "charges were dropped when Mr Tucker
convinced a judge the search warrant was invalid."3 In The Hamilton
Spectator, the Tuckers are made look foolish for "jumping to their
feet" and asserting that their charter rights have been violated when
they have just been acquitted of all charges.
No investigation into police behavior follows the court
Says Reverend Walter, "That's the second time they've
withdrawn charges against us and just kept what they stole. They're thieves,
For More Information
Contact the Church of the Universe
Morning Star Mission of God
544 Barton Street, East
Hamilton, Ontario L8L 2Z1
1. Jim Holt, "Faces of the Church of the
Universe." The Spectator.
November 17, 1994.
2. J. Borkovich, "Reasons for
Sentence." Court Transcript.
As it appears on the Church of
the Universe website.
3. Barbara Brown, "Acquital
angers pot-church pair." The Spectator. June 29, 1994.