Sacrifice of Animals Spurs Dispute

February 10, 2007

Author: Michael Grabell

Source: The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS - The city of Euless, Texas, has asked a federal judge to dismiss a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by a Santeria priest who wants to sacrifice animals at his home.

The priest, JosŽ Merced, sued the city in December after police and permit officials told him he couldn't kill goats for an initiation ceremony.

At the center of the lawsuit is a 2000 federal land-use law, which says that local governments must show a compelling public interest before enforcing an ordinance that could limit a religious practice.

But Euless argues that the act is unconstitutional because it lets Congress intrude on a state's right to regulate the health and welfare of its residents.

"Slaughtering of any animal in the city of Euless is illegal for anyone, just like it has been for decades," said the city's attorney, William McKamie.

"If the local government officers, before they enforce a general ordinance, were forced to question people's beliefs and practices, that would be entanglement in religion, which is clearly unconstitutional," he said.