By KATIE WILSON Staff Writer
Until Thursday, the “marijuana minister” was employed as a janitor by St. John Catholic Parish and S.S. James and John School.
The Rev. Joseph Hayden, priest of the parish, said Steven Schrumpf had been employed to clean up the school’s gym following bingo games held several nights a week.
Schrumpf is charged with misdemeanor offenses of possessing marijuana and driving under the influence of it.
Last month, Schrumpf’s court-appointed attorney, J.K. Chase, filed a motion to dismiss the charges, citing Schrumpf’s religious beliefs. The motion states Schrumpf is “an active member and practitioner of a religious order known as The Hawai’i Cannabis (THC) Ministry.” He also is an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church.
According to the motion, the two organizations “mandate the cultivation and use of marijuana as a religious sacrament and as a fundamental part of the practice of said religion.” The motion further states if Schrumpf is prosecuted, it will interfere with his right to practice his religion.
Hayden said the parish had been considering outsourcing the position to a cleaning service. Agreements with the cleaning service were completed Wednesday and Schrumpf was notified Thursday morning.
Jennifer Marsh, principal at the school, noted Schrumpf worked late at night and did not work while children were present.
Marshall County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Cramer said he didn’t think the religion defense is going to work in this state.
“I don’t think it’s supported by precedent of our (West Virginia) Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court that claiming to be part of a religious organization is a defense for prosecution from a drug offense,” Cramer said. “If we allow this, where does it end?”
Cramer also questioned the timing of Schrumpf’s joining the THC Ministry and Universal Life Church and wondered how it corresponded with his drug use.
Cramer said the defense is on a level with bigamy, which some religions endorse, but is still illegal.
The THC Ministry homepage lists several testimonials from unnamed individuals that have avoided arrest and prosecution by using their ministry ID cards and careful wording, including referring to the substance as “herb” or “cannabis” instead of “marijuana.”