September 2009 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A Santeria priest can continue to sacrifice animals in his Texas home, a federal appeals court has ruled.


Jose Merced of Euless sued the city after officials told him in 2006 that he needed a permit to slaughter animals, including goats, sheep and turtles, reported Religion News Service. Merced had performed religious rituals sacrificing these animals for 16 years without incident.


The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Merced v. City of Euless that the city had violated Merced’s religious liberty. 


“Merced cannot perform the ceremonies dictated by his religion,” Judge Jennifer W. Elrod wrote. “This is a burden, and it is substantial. It is real and significant, having forced Merced to choose between living in Euless and practicing his religion.”


The court said Merced’s only available ceremonial space was in his house, due to the scarcity of Santeria temples in the United States. They also found that the Santeria priest discarded of the animal remains in a timely and sanitary manner.