Monday, March 10, 2008



There’s a guy in Texas who wants to make animal sacrifices as part of his religious observance, and the city he lives in won’t let him:

When police came to his home on a quiet cul-de-sac in this Fort Worth suburb last summer, it was to demand that Merced — an oba, or priest of the Santeria faith — call off a religious ceremony planned for the next day.

The reason: the city’s ban on animal slaughter.

Of course, he’s suing the city, saying that they’re interfering with his right to practice his religion:

Merced has sued the city, saying the slaughter ban encroaches on his right to perform religious ceremonies at his home.

“It’s just ignorance... . They shut the door on me,” Merced said.

And we have comments from the ACLU:

In some places, authorities have worked to accommodate religious practices of new residents. Other times, participants have met with opposition, said Jeremy Gunn, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “Most political societies are very accommodating to the majority practice, but not to minority religions,” Gunn said.

For example:

  • A Canadian Amish man married to an American citizen was barred from re-entering the U.S. in 2004 without photo identification. A federal court later rejected his argument that the requirement conflicted with the group’s interpretation of a biblical prohibition against making graven images and violated his religious rights.
  • A Sikh college student in Michigan was arrested in 2005 for carrying a 10-inch knife, called a kirpan. Carrying a kirpan at all times is a basic tenet of the Sikh religion. Authorities later dropped the charge against Sukhpreet Singh Garcha.
  • A Hmong shaman was convicted of a felony in California after the clubbing of a puppy sacrificed to cure his ill wife. The charge against Chia Thai Moua was reduced in 1996 to a misdemeanor.

OK, so...

There are “minority religions” and there are “religions” that push the boundaries of public sensibility. If Mr Merced were trying to do human sacrifices, say, no one would think we should allow that. If they believed in the destruction of all buildings more than one story high (because, let’s suppose, such buildings are improperly close to God), no one would expect us to tolerate their ritual razings.

It’s not so much that we’re not accommodating to minority religions as it is that we’re not accommodating to practices of which we don’t approve, whether they’re done by lunatics or in the name of “religion”. Look, there really is a difference between killing animals and not wanting your picture taken. Carrying a knife is not the same as using it to kill a lamb.

And note that in the case of the Hmong shaman, the charge was reduced, but not dismissed: we still found his action to be unacceptable.

As do I. In the 21st century in America, I don’t see any place for animal sacrifices, and I see no reason to tolerate them.


Julietta said...

Okay, here's the quandary, as I see it: If you eat any animal flesh at all, Barry (as in, you are not a vegetarian), then your post is hypocritical, as the animals sacrificed at santería rituals are EATEN by the celebrants. And in fact, the ritual slaughter is more humane than the way we mass-slaughter animals here in the U.S. (have you read Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma"?). There's no puppy clubbing, I assure you. It's chickens, and the largest animal sacrificed is a goat. Which is then cooked and served to the guests.

I don't support cruelty to animals, I am a sap when it comes to puppies. But I can't say I don't tolerate animal killing, ritual or otherwise, as I eat fish and sometimes fowl, and sometimes cow, pork, or even lamb. Pigs are as smart as human kindergartners. Lambs are babies. It's a dilemma indeed.

Maggie said...

There should be some sort of license to do this to ensure that it's done humanely and in a sanitary fashion. That would be my contention.