An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah (1993) involved the Santeria religion. Members of this faith perform animal sacrifices. Professor Douglas Laycock represented the Church before the Supreme Court. He described this ritual: “To believers in Santeria, [animal] sacrifice is directly commanded by the gods in considerable detail on each occasion when it is required.”

A new Santeria church was planned in the city of Hialeah, Florida. Members of the community were disturbed by the faith’s animal sacrifices. The lawyer for the city explained to the Court, “Animals were being, in effect, tortured in Hialeah and subjected to cruel treatment in the form of possession prior to sacrifice . . . When sacrifices take place . . . as many as 52 animals in a single day are killed, and they are killed in a private residence in many instances, and then they are decapitated, blood is put into pots, the animals are then oftentimes left out in public places.”

In response to this practice, the city prohibited sacrificing animals “in a public or private ritual or ceremony not for the primary purpose of food consumption.”

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