On Friday, June 9, another possibly controversial lawsuit landed in the lap of federal Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, who made headlines for his handling of the Trump University case, which ended with President Trump agreeing to pay the plaintiffs $25 million.
This case, the Razooky Family Trust vs. Oklevueha Native Indian Church of Sacramental Healing, Inc., was moved Friday from superior court to Curiel's chambers. Samir and Raidh Razooky, who run a Lakeside grocery store, among other things, charge that the Sacramental Healing group rented space at 13313 Highway 8 business route in El Cajon, and said they would not sell peyote or marijuana, their specialty. The suit charges that the defendants immediately began selling marijuana. So, the plaintiffs filed an unlawful detainer action in superior court in April.
The Oklevueha website explains the base of the group's religion: "Attending earth based indigenous American native spiritually empowering and healing ceremonies — especially Native American Church indigenous ceremonies that involve sacraments (peyote, cannabis, ayahuasca, etc.) that are otherwise illegal for non-members to partake and or be in possession of."
The Orange County Register reported last year that the group was preparing to run three pot shops where they intended to use and dispense marijuana and other then-illegal drugs. "Church members say almost anyone can join the religion and partake in its hallucinogenic sacraments, regardless of whether they have Native American heritage," wrote the Register.
The lawsuit says that in the rental agreement, there are words specifying that "the premises would not be used for the sale of controlled substances, including marijuana." But the defendants immediately began selling marijuana, were told to stop, and didn't, say the Razooky brothers.
In the notice of the removal of the suit to federal court, the church says that "as a Native Indian Church of Sacramental Healing, [the church] is a sovereign nation and the litigation violates its civil rights. The plaintiffs' unlawful detainer suit in state court would prevent the group from practicing its rituals, says the church, citing other legal reasons the suit must go to federal court.
One question Curiel may have to wrestle with: If this church allows almost anyone to join, can it call itself a sovereign nation?