Law Center - POSTED: 2008/03/10 10:49
A federal judge will hear arguments today about whether Euless' ban on cruelty to animals infringes upon religious freedom. Jose Merced, a priest in the Santeria religion, has sued Euless, saying the city is infringing on his religious liberties by forbidding him to sacrifice goats and other animals during ceremonies.
Euless officials say the sacrifices would violate ordinances against animal cruelty, keeping livestock and disposal of animal waste.
In May 2006, Merced and 10 other church members were at his house a day before a planned ceremony when a Euless police officer and an animal control officer knocked on his door.
A resident had tipped off police that Merced, president of Templo Yoruba Omo Orisha Texas, and his group would sacrifice goats, according to police reports and court documents.
The officer did not see any goats, and Merced said he would not sacrifice any animals.
A month later, Merced and a priest from Puerto Rico met with Euless officials, who told him that the city would not issue a permit for their ceremonies. Merced sued in December 2006.
In 2007, the city offered Merced a compromise to help settle the lawsuit -- he could kill chickens, which city law allows, but not goats. The city would still enforce its animal cruelty ordinance and its ban against killing livestock. Merced declined.