The North American Association of Visionary Churches (NAAVC) have filed in Federal District Court motions for emergency legal protective measures for sixty-year-old church minister and Navy veteran Clay Villanueva. Villanueva was arrested by authorities August 23, 2021 at the Los Angeles International Airport, while boarding a flight for South America to resume his cancer treatment in Peru.
According to Mr. Villanueva’s attorney and General Counsel for the NAAVC, Charles Carreon, “We are petitioning the Federal District Court in Phoenix for an emergency hearing, to address Villanueva’s immediate release from prison. I have personally contacted attorney for Maricopa County Evan Hiller, and attorney for the Arizona Attorney General Drew Ensign to inform them that Mr. Villanueva’s situation is perilous in the extreme. Government attorneys denied knowing the source of this arrest warrant issued by their own agencies, and yet Mr. Villanueva remains in jail. Mr. Villanueva suffers from stage-3 lymphatic cancer, and he is suffering from malnutrition, hypothermia, and close contact with unmasked people packed together in overcrowded confinement. This is exactly how people die in jail.”
Clay Villanueva is a minister for a small ayahuasca visionary church in Phoenix, Arizona. Villanueva describes his church as a religious center for the spiritual healing of people with addictions, grief, loss, and life challenges of all types including depression and PTSD resulting from war combat. According to Villanueva, “We’ve been here to help people heal the spirit, so they can heal their minds and bodies as well. Our communion sacrament is ayahuasca. Who can honestly say they have the authority to deny us our right to connect with God?”
In 2006 in what’s become known as the O Centro Decision, The US Supreme Court affirmed visionary churches their right to use ayahuasca as a communion sacrament. As part of that court mandate, the DEA was directed to establish an exemption process to affirm churches’ ability to practice with the least restrictive means of government intrusion into their religious faith.
According to Carreon, “My clients and I looked at the DEA’s published exemption process and realized that it required any church filing for an exemption to halt their religious practice until the government had approved their religious beliefs and practices. After some 15 years the DEA has approved zero ayahuasca visionary churches to worship their faith under the DEA’s sad exemption scheme. Two weeks after we filed our lawsuit in May 2020, the DEA’s HIDTA taskforce ran a guns-out raid of Mr. Villanueva’s church and home; then Arizona moved to seize his home and church; then as charged in our recent complaint, an arrest warrant was secretly entered into the warrant database, resulting in his recent surprise arrest at LAX. The attorneys and law enforcement officers who have engaged in these violations will be called to account in Federal Court as we move for Mr. Villanueva’s immediate release.”
The following parties have been named in this suit including, Merrick B. Garland, Attorney General of the United States; D. Christopher Evans, Acting Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security; Troy Miller, Senior Official Performing the Duties of Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the United States of America; Maricopa County, Matthew Shay, and Marco Paddy.
Donations to support Mr. Villanueva and the NAAVC case can be made here: https://gofund.me/ccee9ef6
About the North American Association of Visionary Churches (NAAVC): With offices in Arizona and California, the NAAVC represents a national network of community-based churches focused on the rights of religious organizations and their congregations. For additional information visit https://www.naavc.org. Community liaison contact: 1-415-506-9871