Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah


The city of Hialeah passed an ordinance banning animal “sacrifice”. The Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye filed a lawsuit against the city of Hialeah for violating the church’s rights under the Free Exercise Clause. The District Court supported the ordinances and the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the lower court.


Are the ordinances that the city of Hialeah passed constitutional under the Free Exercise Clause?


No, these ordinances are not constitutional because the ordinances violate the rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye.



The U.S. Supreme Court said that,“a law is neutral and of general applicability need not be justified by a compelling governmental interest even if the law has the incidental effect of burdening a particular religious practice. A law failing to satisfy these requirements must be justified by a compelling governmental interest and must be narrowly tailored to advance that interest.”

A law is neutral if this law does not “infringe upon or restrict practices because of their religious motivation” The court looks at the object, text, historical record, and effect of the law to figure out whether this law is neutral or not. The object or purpose has to be determined by looking to the text of the law. A law must not discriminate on its face. The record of the case cannot suppress a religious action. The effect of a law cannot affect just a religion. The effect must affect all of society.


The law at hand is not neutral. These ordinances lack neutrality on its face because the lawmakers used the words “ritual” and “sacrifice” with strong religious suggestions. The record of this case suppresses the fundamental component of the Santeria worship services. The text of these ordinances says that the citizens of Hialeah stated concerns of a “certain religion”. The effect of the law affects the members of the Santeria religion. The issues at hand are genuine governmental concerns, but the ordinances together reveal a purpose outside of these genuine governmental concerns. The first ordinance omits almost all killings of animals except for religious sacrifices. The second ordinance falls on Santeria supporters, but almost no other religions or groups. The third ordinance says that the killing of animals for religious purposes is unnecessary, but other killings fall out of this prohibition. The second part of this rule is the strict scrutiny rule. The city of Hialeah said that they had two governmental interests when making these ordinances: protecting the public health and stopping the cruelty to animals. These ordinances neglect to forbid nonreligious behavior that jeopardizes these interests. Thus, these ordinances cannot survive the rule of strict scrutiny. All of these ordinances are too general and could be narrower to not burden religious practices.

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