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(RNS) A Santeria priest can continue to sacrifice animals in his Texas home, a federal appeals court has ruled.
Jose Merced of Euless was told in 2006 that he needed a permit to slaughter animals — including goats, sheep and turtles — in his house, rituals he said he had been performing for 16 years without incident.
Merced sued the city, saying that it had violated his right to practice his religion, Santeria.
Euless officials cited potential health concerns over the animal sacrifices.
But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday (July 31) that the city had inhibited Merced’s ability to practice Santeria.
“Merced cannot perform the ceremonies dictated by his religion. 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 appeals court decided.
The court established that Merced’s only available ceremonial space was in his house, due to the lack of Santeria temples in the U.S. They also found that the Santeria priest discarded of the animal remains in a timely and sanitary manner.
Euless authorities said the city plans to file for a rehearing.
By Kristen May
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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