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Published: 2009/07/28
by David Boykin

Gent Treadly’s Greg Koerner Esq. and The Legal Battle for The Church of Universal Love and Music

The Church of Universal Love and Music (CULM) is once again open this year, hosting a variety of jambands big and small. The Church is located about an hour outside of Pittsburgh in rural Acme, Pennsylvania. CULM has existed for many years and has hosted many acts familiar to this site’s readers including George Clinton and the 420 Funk Mob, Steve Kimock, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Derek Trucks Band, The Disco Biscuits, The Wailers, Banyan, Donna the Buffalo, Rusted Root and hundreds of others. One of those other bands is Gent Treadly led by Greg Koerner, an accomplished bassist and attorney.

The Church of Universal Love and Music (CULM) is once again open this year, hosting a variety of jambands big and small. The Church is located about an hour outside of Pittsburgh in rural Acme, Pennsylvania. CULM has existed for many years and has hosted many acts familiar to this site’s readers including George Clinton and the 420 Funk Mob, Steve Kimock, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Derek Trucks Band, The Disco Biscuits, The Wailers, Banyan, Donna the Buffalo, Rusted Root and hundreds of others. One of those other bands is Gent Treadly led by Greg Koerner, an accomplished bassist and attorney.
The Church, which is entirely nondenominational and has no dogma or barriers to entry, is actually a covered stage and pavilion in a beautiful natural amphitheatre located in the mountainous woods of Southwestern Pennsylvania and was designed especially to create an ideal stress-free atmosphere where live music can be enjoyed and appreciated to its fullest extent.

The Church’s mission statement, which appears on its website, reads as follows:

The Church of Universal Love and Music is a nondenominational, interfaith based church, committed to the spiritual and mental growth of each individual by uniting the body, mind, and spirit. CULM is dedicated to the essence of life and the values that honesty creates.

People of all ages are welcome to join in the peaceful celebration of life. Unity can be achieved through the acceptance and celebration of our differences as well as our similarities. CULM is proud to help bring the creatively religious values of music to the world. Being honest is the path to a happy life and prosperity. Providing music to help individuals prosper by fulfilling their purpose to be happy and honest is the mission of the Church of Universal love and music.

Music is the universal language, which can break down the barriers of prejudice. Music can help conscious human beings achieve their full potentials. Music, Nature, Humor all help us to achieve happiness, and to see the essence of life and existence.

In 2003, the Church was shut down by local zoning authorities and its founder, Willy Pritts was threatened with penalties for criminal contempt. The Fayette County Zoning authorities obtained an order preventing the Church and Pritts from having any events on the property, stating that Pritts exhausted his remedies under Pennsylvania State law. It looked like the Church’s run was over until Pritts met Koerner, who had played at the Church with Gent Treadly and The Grateful Dead’s Vince Welnick. Koerner filed a lawsuit on the Church’s behalf in Federal Court, which was based on the Religious Land Use Act of 1990. The Religious Land Use Act prevents zoning authorities from denying requests for special exceptions to zoning regulations for religious organizations. After a three year legal battle, a settlement was reached which resulted in a large monetary award to the Church and a renewal of festivals at the Church.

The three-year legal battle received coverage on the Pittsburgh news’ Front pages as well as a segment of The Daily Show. The case centered on the meaning of freedom of religion in this country by posing the question “What is a religion?” and whether communal participation in an event focusing on live music involves a religious dimension. Koerner states, “My involvement in this case was especially gratifying because I became involved with the Church initially through my association with the Church as a musician. Only after playing there numerous times and seeing what Willy and his Church were trying to accomplish did I get involved as their lawyer.”

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