Paul L. Bader

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In Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, a Florida district court has gone further than any other federal court in proscribing a church's right to exercise its religious beliefs. The district court found that the city's interests in public health, child welfare, and animal welfare were sufficient to override the protection provided under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. After the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion the Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether the First Amendment protects a religion's practice of animal sacrifice. The Supreme Court has consistently recognized that while an individual's right to believe is absolute, his right to act according to those beliefs may be circumscribed by the government when there is a sufficiently strong interest. This case presents the Court with an opportunity to clarify the test for government action that restricts a religious practice, and perhaps to establish a fundamental minimum of activity that a religion is entitled to practice unfettered by government regulation.