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Supreme Court Overturns Ban on Ritual Animal Sacrifice


July 1993

A Florida city's ban on ritual animal sacrifice is an unconstitutional violation of freedom of religion, the Supreme Court held unanimously June 11. The ruling in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah is a major decision that strengthens First Amendment protection of free exercise of religion. Free exercise of religion suffered a major setback in the Supreme Court's 1990 ruling in Employment Division v. Smith. In that case, a Native American working in a drug treatment program was fired from his "drug-free workplace" because he used peyote, the sacrament in the Native American Church of North America, and subsequently denied state unemployment compensation benefits. In that case, the Supreme Court reversed long-standing First Amendment jurisprudence to permit states to pass laws that inadvertently infringe the free practice of religion (Joan Biskupic, "Court Says Ban On Ritual Sacrifice Violates Free Exercise of Religion," Washington Post, 6/12/93, A12).