Normally, you read only good things about city government in Euless [Texas] on this blog, but I'm afraid they have dropped the ball on this one. A federal lawsuit has been filed against the city for denying religious freedom to some of it's citizens.
Jose Merced, a Santeria priest since 1979 and president of Templo Yoruba Omo Orisha Texas, has filed the lawsuit claiming that city officials will not allow the religious sacrifice of chickens and sometimes goats. Merced says the sacrifices are neccessary in the Santeria religion to initiate new members, consecrate sacred shells and conduct healing rituals. He says the animals are killed humanely and the meat is eaten.
Euless police have stopped Merced from conducting the sacrifices without a city permit. Yet, when he has tried to get a permit from the city it is always denied.
Merced wrote in an affidavit to the lawsuit, "We do not want to break the law, and yet we are entitled to practice our religion. Santeria cannot continue to function, much less exist, without animal sacrifice."
I believe the city is wrong on this issue. The Supreme Court decided in a Florida case in 1993 that animal sacrifice is a form of religious worship that is protected by the United States Constitution. Merced and other followers of Santeria have the right to practice their religion without interference from city officials, even though the rituals may involve the sacrificing of animals.
According to Merced, the rituals are performed indoors and people outside would not be able to see or hear them. The city should just give Merced his permit and ask him to keep the rituals low-key so neighbors are not disturbed. In light of the 1993 Supreme Court decision, it would just be a waste of time and taxpayers' money to try and fight the religion in court.