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

PETITIONER: Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc.
RESPONDENT: City of Hialeah
LOCATION: City Council of Hialeah

DOCKET NO.: 91-948
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 508 US 520 (1993)
ARGUED: Nov 04, 1992
DECIDED: Jun 11, 1993

Douglas Laycock - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Richard G. Garrett - Argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

The Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye practiced the Afro-Caribbean-based religion of Santeria. Santeria used animal sacrifice as a form of worship in which an animal's carotid arteries would be cut and, except during healing and death rights, the animal would be eaten. Shortly after the announcement of the establishment of a Santeria church in Hialeah, Florida, the city council adopted several ordinances addressing religious sacrifice. The ordinances prohibited possession of animals for sacrifice or slaughter, with specific exemptions for state-licensed activities.


Did the city of Hialeah's ordinance, prohibiting ritual animal sacrifices, violate the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause?

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

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 04, 1992 in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in Number 91-948, Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. the City of Hialeah.

Mr. Laycock.

Douglas Laycock:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court:

This is a case about open discrimination against a minority religion.

The four ordinances challenged here were enacted in direct response to the church's announcement that it would build a church and practice in public.

They were enacted for the express purpose of preventing the central rituals of this faith.

That purpose is recited in the preambles to the ordinances and in the accompanying resolutions.

The preambles say that the city's--

Byron R. White:

Is that true of each of the ordinances?

Douglas Laycock:

--It is not recited in all four of them, no, Justice White.

It is recited in two of the preambles and in one of the resolutions.

Byron R. White:

So it's possible that some of the ordinances could be upheld--

Douglas Laycock:

Well, we do need--

Byron R. White:

--Or at least it's possible that some of the ordinances might not be discriminatory on their face is that it?

Douglas Laycock:

--It is possible in theory, yes.

Byron R. White:


All right.

Douglas Laycock:

All four ordinances have merged from the same pattern of legislation.

I think they all share the intent, but the intent is recited principally in 87-52 and 87-71.

The accompanying resolution that goes with the ordinance recites that the target is certain religions and certain acts of any and all religious groups.

The ordinances are written in religious terminology.

They do not forbid killing, they forbid sacrifice, and indeed, these ordinances do not forbid any physical act as such.

All the prohibitions depend in part upon an analysis of the purposes or motives of the actor, and when the analysis is complete, the religious motive is always forbidden.

But I think what is most revealing about these ordinances is that they are written on the assumption that animal sacrifice is unnecessary.

The city's brief says it's unnecessary, the State Attorney General's opinion says it's unnecessary, all of the city's amici say it is unnecessary, and lack of necessity is an element of the offense in three of the four ordinances.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Laycock, may I ask you a preliminary question?

There is a State law that touches on some of this as well, is there not?

Douglas Laycock:

There is a State law that is incorporated into one of the ordinances.

The State law is not challenged in this case.

I think--