Court gives Santeria priest OK to sacrifice goats
By LINDA STEWART BALL - AP
Added: Sat, 01 Aug 2009 23:00:00 UTC
Thanks to David for the link.
DALLAS – A federal appeals court reversed a lower court's ruling on Friday that barred a Santeria priest from sacrificing goats in his Texas home, saying a city's decision to prohibit the ritual violated the man's religious rights.
Jose Merced, 46, accuses the city of Euless, Texas, of trampling on his constitutional right to religious exercise. The city claims the sacrifices jeopardize public health and violate its slaughterhouse and animal cruelty ordinances.
Last year, U.S. District Judge John McBryde sided with the Fort Worth suburb and dismissed the Puerto Rico native's claims. Merced appealed.
In its ruling, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said the Euless ordinance placed a substantial burden on Merced's "free exercise of religion without advancing a compelling governmental interest using the least restrictive means."
"It's a great day for religious freedom in Texas," said Eric Rassbach, Merced's lawyer, in response to the three-judge panel's ruling.
Merced said by practicing his faith in the privacy of his own home, he didn't harm anyone.
"Now Santeros can practice their religion at home without being afraid of being fined, arrested or taken to court," Merced said.
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