Goat Sacrifices OK with Appeals Court
By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Where would this country be without the First Amendment? It would have to do without Jose Merced, a Santeria priest who will be allowed to sacrifice goats in his Euless, Texas, home under a federal appeals court ruling issued Friday.
Merced argued that the city was violating his First Amendment rights to practice his faith when it banned the animal sacrifices, which Merced was an essential part of the Santeria religion.
According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Merced, Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion based on the traditional beliefs of a Nigerian tribe, members of whom brought it to the New World as slaves. In Cuba, it merged with some Christian beliefs and evolved into modern-day Santeria, where its gods are reached through animal sacrifices.
Santeria priests, says Becket, are trained to performed humane ritual sacrifice and the animals are consumed in a communal meal after the ceremony.
The Euless city authorities, however, took a dim view of this ritual and had banned Merced from performing it. The AP reports that police officers interrupted a ceremony at his home in September 2004 and warned him again in May 2006 after a neighborhood complained. Merced said he hasn't been able to sacrifice any new priests in the past three years.
Merced sued, lost in the lower court but won on appeal last week. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans found that the city's arguments that practicing Santeria would "endanger public health" were "like the report of Mark Twain's death, greatly exaggerated."
The city plans to file a motion for a rehearing.
Jacqueline L. Salmon
August 3, 2009; 7:13 AM ET
God in Government
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