05. Jose Merced, Santeria, and Animal Sacrifice: The battles over animal sacrifice, and the legal rights of adherents to Santeria, were in my top ten last year, and things have only intensified since then. The biggest story was the resolution of a case involving a Santero, Jose Merced, who was restricted from practicing his religion in Euless, Texas, due to the town’s animal slaughter laws. Merced, who lost his initial challenge to the law, was backed in his appeal by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and ultimately prevailed in his case. “If this decision is ultimately allowed to stand, Merced v. City of Euless could be the case that takes the precedent initially established in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah nationwide, clearing the way for legal animal sacrifice in religious ceremonies.”
My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens. Let’s start off with the latest news in the ongoing James A. Ray sweat-lodge death saga. The AP has an interview with one of the survivors, and it isn’t good news for Ray or his lawyers. “More than 50 followers of spiritual guru James Arthur Ray had just endured five strenuous days of fasting, sleep-deprivation and mind-altering breathing exercises when he led them into a sweat lodge ceremony … When participants exhibited weakness, Ray urged them to push past it and chided those who wanted to leave, she said.
As a sort of coda to the case of Jose Merced, a Santeria practitioner who took the city of Euless, Texas to court over the matter of animal sacrifice, and won, we learn that the city has been ordered to pay Merced’s hefty legal bills. “North Texas taxpayers could be on the hook for a $400,000 legal bill, all because their city lost its fight, against animal sacrifice in religious ceremonies. The bill could go higher. In July, the court ruled in Merced’s favor and ruled the City of Euless must pay his appellate attorneys’ fees. One of his attorneys, Eric Rassbach, estimates the total legal bill at around $400,000. “Quite frankly, they should be upset with their elected officials who signed off on this lawsuit,” Rassbach said.”
My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens. The city of Euless has had its request for a rehearing in federal appeals court over the matter of animal sacrifice rejected. “A federal appeals court has rejected Euless’ request for a rehearing on a decision that paves the way for a Santeria priest to resume sacrificing animals in his home during religious ceremonies. Jose Merced sued Euless, saying his First Amendment religious freedoms were violated when the city banned him from slaughtering goats in 2006. The city contended that such sacrifices jeopardized public health and violated slaughterhouse and animal-cruelty ordinances.”
Just a few quick items to enrich your day. We start off with a Wall Street Journal editorial from Eric Rassbach at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on why he decided to defend Jose Merced’s right to sacrifice goats in his home. “It is a small victory for religious freedom in this country, not just for Mr. Merced, but for everyone who believes the human conscience is a precious gift to be protected. Of course, Christians, Jews, Muslims, or others may want to convince Mr. Merced that his beliefs are in error, and the same religious liberty will protect their right to try to persuade him. That’s the point: Persuasion, not state coercion, is the way all of us should engage our fellow citizens as they seek to obey the “still small voice” of conscience.