Tuesday, October 26, 1993

Church of the Universe: Some nudes is good nudes!

 I'm surprised this got in, not because of the content but because it was during the day of the Federal Election. Brother Walter had an amazing depth of legal knowledge and would argue out the smallest point of law.

OCT 26, GUELPH, 1993 - "Should I get naked?". A slender woman with long brown hair turns her head and asks one of the two men standing next to her. The two men are wearing only army surplus blankets and their very long beards to cover their own bodies as they stood on the front steps of the courthouse this Monday in Guelph.

The three, all ministers of the Assembly of the Church of the Universe, are in court this week to defend themselves against charges of trespass arising from an incident in the summer of 1989, when they tried to repossess land south of Guelph that they felt rightfully belonged to them and attempted to hold a nude Olympics at the site.

The two men, Reverend Brother Walter Tucker, 60, and Reverend Brother Michael Baldasaro, 44, removed their clothes during the noon recess to protest Judge Donald August's rejection of a motion for adjournment made by Kim Edwards, the lawyer for Reverend Sister Jo-Anne Tucker, 53, Walter's wife, because she says she had not received information from the crown regarding one of the charges.

"We have been denied the right to full disclosure" said Baldasaro to the judge, as he stood in a reddish orange wool blanket that disclosed a lot of Baldasaro draped around him like a toga.

Sister Tucker was unable to participate in the protest, as they could not find another one of the large brass safety pins that held the blankets together.

Many of the members of the court seemed somewhat distracted, blushing or burying their face in their hands as the trial progressed. One crown witness was nonplused when he was asked to indicate Brother Walter "The man dressed in...um...seated next to Jo-Anne Tucker."

Brother Walter and Brother Michael, as they asked the court to address them, acted as their own defense, and declined the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses called by the crown, as did Sister Tucker's lawyer, under her instructions. Crown Judith MacDonald warned the defendants that this would hamper their defense.

Brother Tucker donned clothes, which were mostly made of hemp fibre, as well as two roach clips attached to his shirt, for his appearance as his own defense witness. He appeared on the stand, from which he wandered after he was sworn in and engaged in a running conversation with the Judge, crown and Baldasaro, which caused the court reporter, who makes up the written transcript of the trial, to throw up her hands in despair and exclaim "Oh, please, please, please, I've got four people talking at once!" Brother Walter spoke at length until court was adjourned about the story of the loss of his land and house, despite Judge August's comment that "what you have just told me is totally irrelevant" because it related to a civil matter that had been settled in another court.

Not guilty pleas were entered by all parties. Tucker has also been charged with resisting arrest after being charged with trespass. Tucker spoke today of his eviction from the property in 1986, and showed videotape of that eviction, in which he left his dwelling in the nude to confront officers.

Tucker was also naked during one trespassing arrest at the site."If any of us had come out of the house in any other condition but stark nude we would have been shot..they would have killed me." Tucker said the arrest reminded him of the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas "It reminded me of that David Koresh thing - you know, when they broke in and killed them."

Tucker also alleged today that OPP officers mistreated him during another arrest, and tugged him roughly by his 16 inch beard when putting him in a cruiser.

The Church, which stresses nudity and uses Marijuana as a sacrament, was founded in 1969 by Tucker, whose father was a judge and member of parliament. Tucker himself has run for parliament in Guelph and in Hamilton, where he now resides, and Baldasaro has campaigned for mayor of Hamilton. Tucker will give his closing submissions Wednesday in this trial. The three are also facing narcotics charges in Hamilton over possession of cannabis.