Jury: Fayette County did not violate Church of Universal Love and Music members' rights

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The Church of Universal Love and Music's prayers were not answered today, as a jury in U.S. District Court found that Fayette County did not violate the rights of members of the defunct church to practice religion or their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Ending a trial that began Monday and capping a decade-long dispute, the eight jurors unanimously found that the preponderance of evidence favored the county, which argued that an Aug. 1, 2009, raid on the Bullskin organization's Funk Fest concert was constitutional.

For years, officials used zoning laws to try to prevent Church of Universal Love and Music founder William D. Pritts from using his 149-acre property for large gatherings.

In early 2009, a legal challenge by Mr. Pritts' organization led to a settlement in which the county paid $75,000 and agreed not to interfere with his concerts and he agreed to keep out illegal drugs.

The Aug. 1 police raid, coordinated by the Fayette County district attorney's office, netted 76 bags of marijuana, 20 bags of hallucinogenic mushrooms, nine hits of LSD, two bags of hashish, six nitrous oxide dispensers and hundreds of pipes, and resulted in about 20 arrests from among some 1,000 concertgoers.

The plaintiffs argued they did nothing illegal but were subjected to police abuses.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.


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