Jacob Chansley, the fur-clad, spear-toting and horned-helmeted accused U.S. Capitol insurrectionist known as the “QAnon Shaman,” must have court-ordered organic meals in jail as he awaits trial on a six-count indictment, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, a Ronald Reagan appointee, said he would file a written order explaining his decision.
The Bureau of Prisons has found little support for the proposition that shamanism would require a diet of wild caught tuna, vegetables, and soup, and a federal magistrate judge in Arizona appeared reluctant to grant an order absent more information.
At the time, Chansley’s attorney Albert Watkins told that Grand Canyon State judge that his geology degree gave him little basis to speak on the subject but offered for his client to expound about his religious beliefs “with a greater degree of detail” if necessary in the future.
Some nine days into what he claims to be an involuntary nine-day fast, Chansley followed through on that with a handwritten letter with detailed instructions.
“Because of my being a Shamanic practitioner, I only eat traditional food that has been made by God. This means no GMO’s, herbicides, pesticides, or artificial preservatives or artificial colors,” Chansley wrote in a jailhouse letter released on Wednesday. “I have not eaten anything since Monday morning @ approx. 8:15 a.m. Being w/o food is stressful due to the way it affects my serotonin levels. As a spiritual man, I don’t mind fasting for a few days, but 5 days is the longest I have ever gone w/o food/fasted for. I am humbly requesting a few organic canned vegetables, canned tuna (wild caught), or organic canned soups. If I have to go a week w/o food or longer then so be it. I will stay committed to my spiritual/religious beliefs even if it means I suffer physically. I will continue to pray through the pain and do my best not to complain. I simply ask that you understand that the physical effects of not eating organic are harmful to my body & bio-chemistry.”
As an alternative to organic food, Chansley requested release from prison, a motion mooted by the granting of his diet.
Judge Lambert started off a little more than half-hour long hearing by seeking the basis for Chansley’s request.
“Are you bringing a First Amendment religious liberty challenge?” Chansley asked, also inquiring whether those beliefs were sincerely held.
Watkins replied yes on both counts, describing the stakes as a life and annihilation, of the spiritual and physical varieties.
“It’s a choice between starvation, death and consuming something contrary to his long-held faith,” Watkins said.
A Bureau of Prisons official told the judge that their researchers could find no support for the “USDA-approved organic” diet that Chansley claims to be a tenet of Shamanism, a supposed tenet that would require a change in vending contracts—or a trip to the local grocery store—to accommodate.
Watkins proffered a Wikipedia entry in support, leaving the government to point out that the word “organic” does not appear on that page.
Though Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Louise Paschall appeared on the line for the telephone conference, prosecutors took no position on Chansley’s request for organic food, leaving that the to the discretion of the Bureau of Prisons. Prosecutors did, however, oppose his release on the grounds of his danger to the community.
“The defendant cannot be trusted to keep from inciting, contacting or coordinating with other radical extremists, intent on continuing to obstruct the normal functioning of our democracy,” the government’s opposition memo stated. “Given his participation in the obstruction of the normal functioning of the government, and his disbelief in the legitimacy of the current United States government, it is unlikely that the defendant will obey any pretrial release conditions.”
This is a developing story…
[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]