Santeria Leader Fights Euless Ban

January 6, 2007

Author: Michael Grabell

Source: The Dallas Morning News

EULESS -- The room was set up with benches and shrines, the herbs, dried coconuts and eggshell chalk laid out on a table. With the preparations done, 10 church members sat by the pool behind the red-brick home on the cul-de-sac and drank beer.

The next day, they would sacrifice a chicken to initiate a new member, using the energy in its blood to communicate with the spirits, known as orishas.

But then Euless police knocked on the door.

The officers explained to the priest, Jose Merced, that killing animals of any kind is illegal within the city limits. And Mr. Merced tried unsuccessfully to explain that animal sacrifice is as essential to his religion, Santeria, as the Eucharist is to Catholicism.

Now, Mr. Merced has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the city, thrusting the African-Caribbean religion and the quiet suburb into the spotlight. And Mr. Merced has a U.S. Supreme Court case supporting Santeria animal sacrifice, indicating that Euless might have to compromise.

"It appears that city officials are either deliberately defying the Supreme Court justices on this ruling or they're simply confused," said Ernesto Pichardo, head of the Santeria religion in the U.S. and the plaintiff in the 1993 Supreme Court case.

See also: Civic, Campus