Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah (Great American Court Cases)
Legal Citation: 508 U.S. 520 (1993)
Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc.
City of Hialeah
Animal sacrifices should be allowed in rituals of religion.
Chief Lawyers for Petitioner
Douglas Laycock, Jeanne Baker, Steven R. Shapiro, Jorge A. Duarte
Chief Lawyers for Respondent
Richard G. Garrett, Stuart H. Singer, Steven M. Goldsmith
Justices for the Court
Harry A. Blackmun, Anthony M. Kennedy (writing for the Court), Sandra Day O'Connor, William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, John Paul Stevens, Clarence Thomas, Byron R. White
Date of Decision
11 June 1993
Religious sacrifices are allowable.
The Supreme Court unanimously declared that religious rituals involving animal sacrifices are allowed under First Amendment rights.
Santeria, a Cuban form of voodoo, combines Roman Catholicism and African tribal religions. West African slaves...
(The entire section is 525 words.)
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Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah (Supreme Court Drama)
Petitioner: Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc.
Respondent: City of Hialeah
Petitioner's Claim: That city laws prohibiting animal sacrifices during religious ceremonies violated the First Amendment freedom of religion.
Chief Lawyer for Petitioner: Douglas Laycock
Chief Lawyer for Respondent: Richard G. Garrett
Justices for the Court: Harry A. Blackmun, Anthony M. Kennedy (writing for the Court), Sandra Day O'Connor, William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, John Paul Stevens, Clarence Thomas, Byron R. White
Justices Dissenting: None
Date of Decision: June 11, 1993
Decision: The laws violated the freedom of religion.
Significance: The decision is a recent reminder that laws may not target religious activity with unfair treatment.
Santería is a religion that developed among African slaves in Cuba in the 1800s and then spread to the United States in 1959. Santeros, as the followers are called, combine a traditional African religion with Roman Catholicism. They use Catholic saints to worship African spirits called orishas. Santeros believe orishas help them follow their destiny, and that orishas need animal sacrifices to live. This means animal sacrifices are an important part of the Santería religion. Santeros usually worshiped in private because in Cuba they were persecuted, or punished, for practicing their religion.
In April 1987, a Santería church called the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye leased land in the city of Hialeah, Florida. The church planned to build a house of worship, school, cultural center, and museum. The president of the church, Ernesto Pichardo, said that the church's goal was to bring the practice of the Santería faith, including animal sacrifices, into the open.
Some people in Hialeah did not want Santeros to practice animal sacrifices in the city. They said animal sacrifices were offensive to human morals and a cruelty to animals. They also said animal sacrifices would create health hazards in the city. The Hialeah city council passed laws, called ordinances, prohibiting animal sacrifices for religious ceremonies.
The church filed a lawsuit against the city. It argued that the city ordinances violated the Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment by preventing Santeros from practicing their religion. The Free Exercise Clause prevents the government from enacting laws that prohibit the "free exercise" of religion.
The trial court ruled against the church. It said that even if the laws interfered with the Santería religion, the laws were valid because they served the health and general well-being of the city. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, meaning approved, the trial court's decision, and the church appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
No religious persecution in America
With a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit's decision and ruled in favor of the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye. Writing for the Court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said that the Free Exercise Clause prevents the City of Hialeah from stopping religious practice. For a law to be valid under the Free Exercise Clause, it must satisfy two tests. First, it must be neutral, meaning it must apply to everyone and not just to a religion. Second, it must serve an important government interest while restricting religion as little as possible.
Hialeah's ordinances failed under both tests. The ordinances were not neutral as they did not apply generally to everyone. People still could kill animals for food. Jewish people could kill animals to make kosher food. Sportsmen were allowed to fish and hunt for animals to kill. The
The ordinances also failed to restrict religion as little as possible to serve a valid governmental interest. The city said its main reason for passing the laws was to protect the city from health hazards. The Court said that the city could do that by requiring the Santeros to dispose of sacrificed animals in a safe and healthy manner. The city did not have to ban sacrifices altogether in order to keep the city healthy. After all, people slaughtered cattle and hogs to eat, yet still kept the city healthy.
Because the laws were not neutral, and because they restricted the Santería religion too much, the Court ruled that the laws were unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye was allowed to practice its religion, including animal sacrifices, without being punished by the government.
Suggestions for further reading
Evans, J. Edward. Freedom of Religion. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1990.
Farish, Leah. The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech, Religion, and the Press. Hillside, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1998.
Gay, Kathlyn. Church and State: Government and Religion in the United States. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1992.
Greenhouse, Linda. "Court, Citing Religious Freedom, Voids a Ban on Animal Sacrifice." New York Times, June 12, 1993.
Hirst, Mike. Freedom of Belief. New York: Franklin Watts, 1997.
Klinker, Philip A. The First Amendment. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Silver Burdett Press, 1991.
Rohter, Larry. "Santeria Faithful Hail Court Ruling." New York Times, June 13, 1993.
Sherrow, Victoria. Freedom of Worship. Brookfield CT: Millbrook Press, 1997.
World Religions, New York: Macmillan Library Reference USA, 1987.