The Murder of Brother Daniel

The Church of the Universe is a religious group centered in Ontario that considers cannabis to be the tree of life and therefore a sacrament. They are involved in a number of legal battles stemming from this belief. On July 17th, Brother Daniel Morgan, a member of the Church of the Universe, was found murdered in his home -Ed

This autumn has brought many fine days to Ontario. The evenings are crisp and clear, the very air invigorates. Although it is bone cold before dawn, it is a good time to be alive. Worthy of the gift of life is Brother Daniel Morgan.

Brother Daniel Morgan was a beloved elder of the Church of the Universe, father of two sons, unwavering social reformer and popular fringe candidate for Alderman of the City of Hamilton. Brother Daniel was a good man, a cool guy, a friend and a stoic pioneer hempist who hung on cheerfully during the genesis of the modern hemp movement.

Brother Daniel took delight in the Herculean task of cleaning up and repairing a burnt out factory and real estate parcel that had been generously donated to the Church by a tax-weary Guelph developer. Their patron was impressed with the aims and accomplishments of the Church of the Universe, especially their plans for a “Hempire Village” they would homestead in the industrial wilderness. (see “Dreams of a Hemp Based Community”.)

Brother Daniel spent his last evening alive with his two teenaged sons and long time lady-love in his little second story apartment above the Church of the Universe. They were just hanging out. Around 11 p.m. Brother Daniel drove his family home, returned to his place, and pretty much went to bed.

In the wee hours of the night someone sneaked up the darkened driveway of the Church and climbed the fire escape to Brother Daniel’s apartment. The intruders forced open the back door, entered and overpowered Brother Daniel. He was then hog-tied with wire, hands behind his back, and then beaten to death in his underwear, in his own bed.

The murderer(s) then damaged the interior of the Church. “They tore the place apart, yanked everything off the walls” noted Brother Daniel’s sons who discovered their father’s body the next day.

The murderer took Brother Daniel’s life, an old microwave, some computer parts and a few rolls of coins. Petty stuff, really.

Loading this loot into the victim’s car, they slipped away into the cold part of the night. Police found Brother Daniel’s ten year old Civic the next day in Burlington, Ontario, burnt to a crisp.

When his sons could not reach Brother Daniel by phone the next morning they went over to check on him, and found their father dead in an appalling pool of blood. They saw the wires had deeply cut into his limbs… he had struggled, he had fought to the last blow. Their phone call to him was in vain, the phone wires had been cut at the wall by the murderers. They called Hamilton Wentworth police from a restaurant.

There are no other clues.

The police are still investigating this murder, they have no suspects and few leads as to who would do this or, more to the point, why?

The events surrounding Brother Daniel’s murder are unsettling on a number of points:

At the time of his death, Brother Daniel was actively campaigning for municipal office. His platform included hemp and he was slowly but steadily attracting support. Was all this hemp activity making someone nervous? Was this bold advance for all things hemp only a bud to be nipped by somebody who had something to lose?

It is not likely Brother Daniel was murdered just to obtain some usual appliances and a joy ride in a battered old Japanese budget car. The low resale value of the do-dads stolen from the Church make this point unlikely. Was the “oh, and-grab-a-few-burglar-type-things-on-the-way-out” a little bit of window dressing thought out in advance by the murderer to make it appear as if a simple robbery had gone sour? This was no clumsy break & enter, this was in every way a professional job.

Consider:

  • The intruders popped the doors with a tool they brought with them. Very neat work.

  • They knew how to effectively subdue and tie somebody up. Practical experience needed here.

  • It would take at least two people to tie up Brother Daniel as he would not submit to one person, even one person holding a gun.

  • People like the intruders are not likely to kill a man for a microwave oven.

  • How did the murderer(s) arrive at the church -by foot? How did they get Brother Daniel’s car keys and how did they leave the scene of a burning car?

There is the lure of marijuana treasure, but let’s back up here and take a look at the Church of the Universe from the sidewalk. This is the funky end of town, way out there by the tracks, dollar stores and silent warehouses. The Church of the Universe is what one would call “contemporary unpretentious” – an insulbrick, WW 2 structure with an unpaved driveway. It’s a shoe string operation, a chicken-neck sort of place. Inside, there is a parlor/office, a tiny bathroom and a cottage cozy kitchen dominated by a huge friendly round table… there are lots of chairs. There is no separate chapel, all active space is Church of the Universe. They have no formal dogma or graven images. Entirely absent is alcohol, tobacco, unkind language, TV, radio, pet animals or junk food. But there is Church sacrament. – aka marijuana.

I have seen the sacrament of the Church of the Universe. It consists of a few buds and some shake of decent home grown herb in a tin tea canister. Many people give them pot, I don’t know from where, I didn’t ask that. The sacrament is never hidden, nor vainly displayed. As the congregation is not afraid they are also not ashamed. They are generous with sharing sacrament, and it is very pleasant to be around these cheerful people. They have been robbed & harassed many times but they do not hold grudges against the Philistines who are ignorant of the gifts of the Tree of Life. Instead the Church of the Universe are tireless defenders of our God-given right to enjoy the Tree of Life. They are famous for successfully launching their own shrewd defense in court.

Their arguments in court for legalization of the herb are rooted in constitutional reality. Minor pot charges laid a decade ago still have not been untangled from freedom of religious expression issues. It’s a lifelong battle with the Church of the Universe, one they have waged for over 14 years now. This is serious ground they are ploughing.

In the meantime, the Hamilton-Wentworth police continue to tolerate the Church of the Universe’s otherwise peaceful use of the sacred herb, as police in other cities tolerate the similar Rastafarian custom of herbal sacrament.

So what of the innocent prize of pot? Are a few joints the motivation for murder? Anyone looking to score big time would have profited far greater by breaking into any of the five million households in this land where playful pot smoking is commonplace. The “sacrament” at the Church of the Universe is small potatoes, hardly worth the attention of thieves. There has been petty vandalism at the Church before, but that’s show biz. In fact, just the weekend before the murder some damage was done, but nothing big was taken. “Everyone knows we don’t call the police” says Brother Walter Tucker, one of the founders of the Church of the Universe and close to Brother Daniel for many years.

The sacrament was not taken by the murderers. It was still there in the open when police arrived. They couldn’t have missed it if they were looking for marijuana. Somebody was angry and afraid -but they weren’t looking for marijuana.

Who would have both a motive and a personal knowledge of the habits of Brother Daniel, kill him, wreck the Church of the Universe, then load up on largely worthless toys, steal an old beat-up car and torch it? Had the murderer been inside the Church before? A snake among the hamsters, checking it out, having a coffee, taking a pull off the sacrament, casing where the phone was, having a muffin, using the toilet, studying the doors, right in there.

In there? This is a lot of planning and effort and risk for your run-of-the-mill freelance paranoid. There was considerable organization involved, hardly the work of a single out-of-control person. Is it possible it was a paid provocateur? If so, then at whose bidding?

Or did a police operative masquerade as a church visitor fuck up royally by going “off agenda”?

So who did this murder? Thieves? Stool pigeons? Right wing cult? Cops? All of the above? Or none?

We are, after all, in a declared civil war, the war on those of us who like our entheogens natural and out of the ground. Will others in our movement against this vicious & prejudiced prohibition get murdered where “convenient”?

Obviously, we must alert our civil serpents that a great violation against peace and a decent society has occurred.

Are our brethren dying because of laws which we are obliged to obey, but which are hardly laws fit to comply with? Has the prohibition now escalated to murder of our own? Not just a war on drugs now, but assault on those foot soldiers against prohibition? Or is this how it has been for over 30 years, and this murder just hits home?

The murder of Brother Daniel and the attack on the Church of the Universe is an S.O.S. that those on the righteous side in this State-managed War on Canadians ignore at their own peril.

The LAW is more toxic than the weed it seeks to destroy.

The Church of the Universe is shaken, but they will carry on with their plans for the Hempire Village built on the ruins of an abandoned factory in Guelph as if Brother Daniel were still there. The Church will operate as always in their insulbrick castle by the tracks.

The police will continue with the investigation.

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  414. Anonymous on

    I am not sure what has caused me to look up the horrible murder of Daniel Morgan. It plays on my mind from time to time. I feel extreme sadness and even more so I feel disgust.
    You see, I was only 14 years old when the police came and raided my home. I had come home from school the day before to find most of the things in our home gone. My mother told me that someone broke in and stole some of our things and that she blew up the microwave by accident. It wasn’t until the very next day that I started to learn the truth. You see, when the police raided our home they also took with them my step-father. A man that was more like a father to me than any man has ever been. It was horrible, and I hated the police for it.
    I went to visit him regularly while he was in Barton and then even after he was moved to Warkworth Pen. I was 21 when he was released from prison, he had spent a total of 6 years away from home. By that time I had a child of my own and had stopped visiting my step father many years before. I had learned who he was and what he had done. I hated him, I hated my mother for allowing him in my life. I had grown up and grew away from him, far, far away. He has been completely out of my life for almost 7 years now, but I still think about him and what he did all the time. Little details that started to flood my mind when I learned what he had done. Little things that no 14 year old should have ever heard or seen.
    In case you have not figured it out, my step father (who my mother left a long time ago) was Christopher Bank. He was one of the two men responsible for this heinous act. I have read your story above and my heart still breaks for Daniel, for his children, for his friends.
    I am not sure why I felt the need to write this, but I have wanted to get it out for a long time now. I am truly sorry for what you have all had to live with and am ashamed to know that someone I once called my family is the reason for it. Again, I apoligise and wish you all nothing but the best in the years to come.