The case in U.S. District Court between Dennis Larson Loop and the federal government and city of Minneapolis has a catchy title — “Rasta Sues Babylon” — and a nice, round number.
One billion dollars.
You might be tempted to laugh at Loop — everyone does, he says — for claiming that the marijuana pipe seized by police in 2004 is his “sacrament” and that actions against his use of the drug violates his rights as a Rastafarian.
Loop is many things: a reformed Lutheran acolyte who decided he was a Rastafarian after seeing a concert by Black Uhuru and UB40 at Duffy’s Bar decades ago, a former computer programmer, now a retiree living on Social Security. Loop is also genial, soft-spoken, thoughtful — and dead serious about his lawsuit.
You don’t spend $400 to file a suit when you are on limited income unless you think you’ve been wronged. In fact, Loop has sued a couple of times before, but the suits were dismissed. He says he’s already gotten feedback from the judge that makes him think he will lose again.
The U.S. attorney’s office has made a motion to dismiss the suit, and the city attorney’s office said it will defend the case.
“I’d like a billion dollars, but I don’t expect that to happen,” Loop said. “Mainly what I want is my religious freedom protected.”
Loop, 62, says he is simply following in the family tradition of fighting for his rights. His ancestors were German religious refugees. His great-great grandfathers Martin and Christian Loop fought in the first battle where the stars and stripes were flown.
“I know this makes no difference legally, but there is much about this case that is VERY KARMIC,” Loop argues in his suit. Family history “gave me the incentive to stand up for what my family fought for. They may not agree with me, but I feel they would be supportive of my right to my beliefs.”
Loop’s search for religious justice goes all the way back to the 1970s, but his first court battle was in 1992 after an arrest for marijuana. In that case, his marijuana pipe was confiscated during a traffic stop. He fought it, and a Hennepin County judge later agreed that the pipe was a religious object, and ordered the police to return it, according to the lawsuit.
Then Loop was arrested for driving under the influence and his pipe was confiscated again. Loop thought his 1992 victory would protect him, but a court official said it was too old. “I should have asked them if the First Amendment is too old too,” Loop wrote. “It is the vital connection to God, or Jah, for me.”
Loop compares the THC in pot to the communication devices clipped to the uniform of a police officer: It gives the officer essential connection to a higher power. The THC is the “God particle,” he said.
“When I smoke a bowl I notice it right away and feel God talking to me,” Loop said. “It may be through a song on the radio of something around me. God talks to me all the time.
“I was a pretty good Christian when I had the flame under me,” said Loop. “But I noticed some people are good Christians when they go to church, but not so good when they are out of church. I didn’t want to be like that.”
Loop says the moral code of his religion is to simply follow the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. “People make religious conversions all the time,” Loop said. “The only difference is that I don’t have a church to go to, and smoking from the pipe is part of my prayer.”
Loop says there is plenty to pray about these days, “especially in the belly of Babylon.”
In his entertaining 20-page suit, Loop argues that he has been harmed by efforts to stop him from using his sacrament. To avoid getting arrested during “prayer,” he has sometimes used public restrooms to light up. If you were forced to hide prayer in a restroom, you’d feel discriminated against too, he argued.
“Welcome to my catacombs.”
In his first suit, Loop asked for a dollar as a symbolic victory. Now, he wants $1 billion because he has suffered and cried “angry tears” over the discrimination.
“I feel so diminished as a person and a U.S. citizen, that I can no longer refer to myself as ‘I,’ except this dang word processor I’m using keeps changing the ‘i’ to ‘I,’ ” he wrote.
One million dollars sounds way too small for the damage of taking away his religious rights, Loop said. When he saw that the government gave the Republic of Georgia $1 billion recently, he settled on that amount. Should he defy the odds and win, Loop said he would build the first Rastafarian church, homes for the homeless and a restaurant that serves free food.
Loop sees states legalizing marijuana, either for medical uses or recreation, as a good idea, but it’s “very frustrating” that he is denied use in Minnesota and has a criminal record because of it.
I asked Loop if he ever might claim to have a health problem in order to obtain marijuana legally.
Loop paused for just a moment.
“No, I wouldn’t,” he said. “Rastafarians don’t lie.”
Follow Jon on Twitter: @jontevlin