Friday, July 17, 2020

Animal Cruelty and Religious Services Don’t Mix

Animal Cruelty and Religious Services Don’t Mix

      In a recent decision from Louisiana, there was rejected the suggestion that a statute prohibiting cockfighting infringed upon the religious rights of the members of the Holy Fight Ministries. Plumbar v. Perrilloux, Case No. 3:20-CV-00361-JAB-RLB (M.D. La. July 13, 2020). 

      Under Louisiana law, it is illegal to “organize or conduct any commercial or private cockfight wherein there is a display of combat or fighting among one or more domestic or feral chickens and in which it is intended or reasonably foreseeable that the chickens would be injured, maimed, mutilated, or killed.” La. Stat. Ann. § 14:102.23. Plumbar and the congregation argued that this statute violated their First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion.

      Rejecting the requested injunction against enforcement of the statute, the court wrote: 

The Court is not persuaded that Plaintiffs can prevail on the elements necessary to issue an injunction. They are unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims because Defendants have provided satisfactory evidence to show that the state has a compelling interest in enacting a law banning cockfighting and because the evidence casts doubt upon the type of institution operated by Plaintiffs. In other words, the evidence suggests that the cockfighting activities were more commercial in nature than a bona fide religious ritual. The public interest and balance of harm likewise weighs in favor of Defendants. Unrestricted freedom to exercise one component of Plaintiffs’ religious practice is outweighed by the public’s interest, as reflected in duly passed legislation that aims to combat animal cruelty.

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