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Court Lifts City's Ban on Blood Rites

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WASHINGTON--Acting in a case with implications for schools, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that Hialeah, Fla., violated the religious rights of adherents of the Santerian religion by banning animal sacrifice, an integral ritual of the Santerian faith.

The High Court ruled unanimously in Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (Case No. 91-948) that the ban violated the church's right to free exercise of religion.

Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that city officials "did not understand ... the fact that their official actions violated the nation's essential commitment to religious freedom.''

Education and religious groups had hoped the Court would use the case to reconsider its controversial 1990 ruling in Employment Division v. Smith, which held that a "neutral, generally applicable law'' could impose a burden on a religious practice without violating the First Amendment. (See Education Week, Nov. 11, 1992.)

The Justices declined to reconsider Smith, however, and agreed that the Hialeah ordinances failed the test set forth in the earlier ruling.--M.W.

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