- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 12, 2008

Santeria priest appeals slaughter ban

EULESS, Texas — A Santeria priest has filed an appeal in federal court after he lost his religious-freedom challenge to a city ban on animal slaughter.

The Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an appeal Tuesday on behalf of Jose Merced to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

“The First Amendment was written to protect the ability of all faiths to worship in their own homes and in their own way,” Kevin “Seamus” Hasson, president of the Becket Fund said in a statement. “People of all faiths should be concerned when the government says someone cannot practice their religion in their own home.”

Mr. Merced — an Oba, or priest — said animal sacrifices are an essential devotion in Santeria, a religion that emerged in Cuba when Yoruba slaves fused elements of Roman Catholicism with their religious traditions from Africa.

Mr. Merced sought a permit from Euless officials but was denied permission to sacrifice goats as part of a religious ceremony. For the rite, a 4-inch blade is used to sever an animal’s carotid artery, letting blood fall on a shrine. The animal is then prepared and eaten.

Euless officials have insisted in court that local sanitation ordinances prohibit the slaughter of certain kinds of animals inside city limits. Officials could not discuss the case because the city does not comment on pending litigation, said Euless spokeswoman Betsy Deck.

Indiana order gives up monastery

INDIANAPOLIS — The shrinking number of women called to Roman Catholic religious vocations has caught up with the Carmelite Sisters of Indianapolis. They’re giving up their monastery and moving in with another order 60 miles away.

The Carmelites, who’ve maintained a presence on Indianapolis’ northwest side for 75 years, are moving this summer to the southeastern Indiana town of Oldenburg to live alongside the Sisters of St. Francis.

The Carmelites’ numbers have fallen off to just nine sisters from 12 four years ago, and their average age has grown to the mid-70s. Meanwhile, efforts in recent years to recruit new members have produced few takers.

“We feel we will have quite a few more years to live our life the way it is supposed to be lived. Then we will die out. There is no question about that,” said Sister Jean Alice McGoff, prioress of the monastery and a resident for 59 years.

It’s a fate other religious orders for women also face, said Patricia Ann Wittberg, a sociologist at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Teacher settles row on anti-Islam speaker

RALEIGH, N.C. — A former Wake County high school teacher has reached an agreement with officials after he was punished for inviting an anti-Islamic speaker to talk to his students.

Attorney Billy Strickland said he couldn’t immediately disclose terms of the deal reached Monday with Robert Escamilla. Mr. Strickland said that the agreement was contingent upon the school district performing some actions that he couldn’t reveal.

Mr. Escamilla was suspended in February 2007 after he invited an Egyptian-born Christian evangelist to speak at Enloe High School. Complaints arose over how the speaker denounced Islam and warned female students not to marry Muslim men.

Mr. Escamilla was reprimanded and sent to work at an alternative school. The school board also released negative parts of his personnel file to justify its decision not to return Mr. Escamilla to Enloe.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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