Florida town blocks Muslim sacrifice of goats and lambs

Which would almost certainly be protected by the 1st Amendment. Such sacrifices are actually commanded in the Old Testament but Jews today are no longer the Israelites of old

Disturbed by the prospect of lambs and goats being slaughtered in her city, Sunrise Commissioner Sheila Alu single-handedly blocked a Muslim religious ceremony set to take place on Sunday.

"Yes, I was trying to stop it," Alu said on Wednesday. "It's shut down. I'm trying to protect innocent animals. This is not an appropriate setting for the slaughtering of animals in an open field in a city that's as populated as Sunrise. Usually these religious ceremonies take place in a rural area."

The news did not sit well with Nezar Hamze, executive director of the South Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations based in Pembroke Pines.

"Wow," Hamze said. "That is very upsetting. We'll find another venue. But that's very disturbing. I'm very disappointed in that. We asked for permission and went through the proper channels and now it's off because a commissioner has a problem with it."

Muslims from local mosques had planned to gather at a 45-acre farm on Hiatus Road in Sunrise to celebrate the Eid ul-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, Hamze said. The holiday honors Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, before God provided a sacrificial lamb instead. The day also marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are urged to make at least once in their lifetime.

"The meat is sacrificed according to state and Islamic law," Hamze said. "There is no bloodbath. It's very humane. It's a slit on the throat real quick. And they bleed out in a couple seconds. The animals do not suffer."

The Florida Humane Slaughter Act governs the handling and killing of livestock, and a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision stemming from a case in Miami-Dade County upheld the right for animal sacrifices for religious purposes. That decision grew out of a lawsuit filed by the Lukumi Babalu Aye church charging the city of Hialeah with illegally enacting ordinances designed to persecute Santeria practitioners.

That means animal sacrifices for religious purposes enjoy protection from government interference, said Derek Newton, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

"If [Alu] was acting on her own, it becomes a question of politics rather than a legal argument," Newton said. "If she called from her office and said she was commissioner so and so, that might be a problem."

Alu said she called as a resident, not a commissioner. "I have no ill will toward the Muslim faith," she said. "I'm just an animal lover."

After learning that there were no legal grounds for blocking the ceremony, Alu said she contacted a man who works for the owners to verify that they were allowing the ceremony. She said he told her they were not aware the event was taking place on their property and that the caretaker had improperly given permission for the ceremony.

Wednesday evening, Hamze said the caretaker called to cancel. The ceremony, however, will take place at a new, undisclosed location. "We found another venue," Hamze said, "but it will be kept private."

He also said he had spoken with Alu. "I truly believe she's just a big animal lover," he said, "and I don't believe she meant any malice toward the Muslim community."


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