Raid on Family's Home and Organic Food Co-Op Challenged

Buckeye Institute Legal Center Sues ODA, Lorain County Health Department

Columbus - The Buckeye Institute's 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today took legal action against the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Lorain County Health Department for violating the constitutional rights of John and Jacqueline Stowers of LaGrange, Ohio. The Stowers operate an organic food cooperative called Manna Storehouse. ODA and Lorain County Health Department agents forcefully raided their home and unlawfully seized the family's personal food supply, cell phones and personal computers. The legal center seeks to halt future similar raids. The complaint was filed in Lorain County Court of Common Pleas.

"The use of these police state tactics on a peaceful family is simply unacceptable," Buckeye Institute President David Hansen said. "Officers rushed into the Stowers' home with guns drawn and held the family - including ten young children - captive for six hours. This outrageous case of bureaucratic overreach must be addressed."

The Buckeye Institute argues the right to buy food directly from local farmers; distribute locally-grown food to neighbors; and pool resources to purchase food in bulk are rights that do not require a license. In addition, the right of peaceful citizens to be free from paramilitary police raids, searches and seizures is guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 14, Article 1 of the Ohio Constitution.

"The Stowers' constitutional rights were violated over grass-fed cattle, pastured chickens and pesticide-free produce," Buckeye Institute 1851 Center of Constitutional Law Director Maurice Thompson said. "Ohioans do not need a government permission slip to run a family farm and co-op, and should not be subjected to raids when they do not have one. This legal action will ensure the ODA understands and respects Ohioans' rights."

On the morning of December 1, 2008, law enforcement officers forcefully entered the Stowers' residence, without first announcing they were police or stating the purpose of the visit. With guns drawn, officers swiftly and immediately moved to the upstairs of the home, finding ten children in the middle of a home-schooling lesson. Officers then moved Jacqueline Stowers and her children to their living room where they were held for more than six hours.

Such are raids are beyond the scope of the purely administrative authority delegated to ODA and county health departments. In enforcing licensure laws, these agencies are only permitted to contract for routine enforcement services. Forceful raids and sweeping searches and seizures are not routine, and exceed the authority granted to ODA and county health departments.

The Buckeye Institute seeks an injunction against similar future raids, and a declaration that such licensure laws are unconstitutional as applied the Stowers and individuals like them.

There has never been a complaint filed against Manna Storehouse or the Stowers related to the quality or healthfulness of the food distributed through the co-op. The Buckeye Institute's legal center will defend the Stowers from any criminal charges related to the raid.

A copy of the complaint is available at http://www.buckeyeinstitute.org/stowers.pdf. A video of the Stowers describing the incident is available at http://www.buckeyeinstitute.org.

The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, together with its 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, is a nonpartisan research and educational institute devoted to individual liberty, economic freedom, personal responsibility and limited government in Ohio.

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My 12/17 interview with Buckeye's "Matt" Thompson is podcast at www.wspd.com

As Matt noted, on their website Buckeye is offering individuals who find Ohio's Gestapo tactics offensive a variety of ways to contribute support to the Stowers' family.

Brian Wilson
Program Director
PM Drive host
NewsTalk 1370 WSPD
"Where Toledo comes to talk"

Brian Wilson
Program Director
PM Drive host
NewsTalk 1370 WSPD
"Where Toledo comes to talk"

If you're going to post a link then post the entire link, not just a link to WSPD, a site where what isn't pop-ups is advertisements and more advertisements. I looked around the site and even did a search and I can't find the interview.

Probably not worth looking for anyway.

Mad Jack
Mad Jack's Shack

it is the first one in the list:

http://www.wspd.com/pages/brianstop10.html

Lots of issues worth examining:

1. Do people have the right to "disconnect" from the Leviathan grid of the state? My simple answer is "yes," though people who try this always seem to get crushed under the hammer of the bureaurats. Just ask the folks at Ruby Ridge or Waco - defy the government and you can expect to get clobbered. Hard.
2. Should these co-op members have the right to trade among themselves without government interference? I think so. These are individuals who knowingly interact in a closed, non-public network, and there is no threat to the commonweal (excepting, of course, food-borne illness, but if they do not engage in retail activity, this would be no different than if I became ill after eating a casserole given to me by a neighbor).
3. Did this co-op knowingly engage in retail activity with the general public? If so, they fall under the jurisdiction of the state just as any other food preparation or retail establishment. We might complain about the excesses of the state, but the law is quite clear. If we allow Manna Storehouse to engage in retail activity without regulation, then we have to allow every Applebee's, Jack-in-the-Box, and Bob's Diner to prepare food without regulation.
4. Should the ODA be allowed to summon gun-wielding law enforcement personnel on a health department visit? Hell, no. If you need a sheriff to knock on the door and show papers, fine, but sending a small army over organic foods is over the top. Admittedly, the Stowers probably added fuel to the fire by refusing the initial request to inspect, but this was clearly an example of state and county bureaucrats with an axe to grind.
5. Should the state be able to regulate food that people grow or raise on their own property? No way. Not only is this an invasion of privacy, but it would be a ridiculous waste of time and money. Besides, the nickels and dimes people can squeeze out of homegrown produce would get eaten up by the hundreds of dollars needed for health licenses, retail licenses, sales tax liecenses, and all the other crap extorted by the state from people who just want to sell cans of Coke. What next - licenses for a farking lemonade stand? Oh wait, I forgot: that's already been done against kids and lemonade stands.
6. Are the Stowers being targeted in an effort to intimidate other co-ops? Probably, but try proving that one, pal. As a former restaurant owner, I have encountered some zealous and inflexible health inspectors, people who seem to have a holy mission to make life unnecessarily difficult for those in the food business. Now, many of the inspectors were reasonable, but there have been few I've known who were so unreasonable as to border on Nazi-like. My guess is that this is a combination of example-making and stubbornness on the part of the ODA.

http://historymike.blogspot.com/

In addition to the FBI, NSA, BATF and various PDs, we now have the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to add to the alphabet soup of JBTs.

From the article referenced by OldSouthEndBrdy: [Capt. Richard] Resendez said four deputies conducted the search over three or four hours -- not the nine
claimed on some [Internet] sites. There was no SWAT team and no semiautomatic weapons.

"We don't even have semiautomatic weapons," he [Resendez] said.

Unless the deputies have traded in their Glock 40s for revolvers, that's a lie. Continuing along with the article the motive behind this harassment is revealed by Serazin.

From the article referenced by OldSouthEndBrdy: Assistant County Prosecutor Scott Serazin said any business that sells perishable foods must be licensed and follow regulations covering those who store and supply food. There is no exception in the law for a co-op, Serazin said, and Manna cannot ask customers to waive safety regulations

"You just can't have that," he said. "There has to be some kind of regulation and inspection of food."

Right. We just can't have unlicensed, unregulated grocery shopping. We aren't allowed to drive out to a farm, have a look around and buy a week's worth of groceries from a farm we like. That's unlicensed, unregulated, and just plain wrong according to Assistant County Prosecutor Scott Serazin, who clearly knows what's best for all of us.

Here's a link to a podcast interview that's fairly enlightening, and another to an article talking about the law suite.

http://www.morningjournal.com/articles/2008/12/18/news/mj365952.txt

http://www.buckeyevoices.org/index.php?id=98

I entertained real hope for Ohio, mainly because Gov. Ted Strickland is a democrat and a gun owner, which is a refreshing combination. Then there was the shooting in Lima by SWAT, the scandal with Jones-Kelley and now this. The silence from Ted's mansion is deafening. What Ted Strickland must realize is that by failing to condemn abuses like this one, he gives his tacit approval.

Mad Jack
Mad Jack's Shack

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