Victory with Police in Pursuit of Relgious Freedom PDF Print E-mail

News Release
Contact: Luz Weinberg
Cell: 305.772.7100

VICTORY WITH POLICE IN PURSUIT OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 – Miami Florida:  Represented by Attorney David Aelion in a suit against the City of Coral Gables relative to a June 8, 2007 incident, the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye and the Santeria religion have made historical progress with the Miami-Dade County Police Department in pursuit of enforcement of their right to practice under the United States Constitution’s First Amendment.

"I am thankful of the Miami-Dade Police Department’s cooperation, leadership and initiative on this what truly is a major first step towards enforcing not only our religion’s constitutional right to practice, but also, and even more importantly, to give its overdue ratification and attention to the United States Supreme Court’s historical decision regarding our right to engage in all of our religion’s practices as it dictates, including freedom to gather and freedom of animal sacrifice. Now I call upon all other police departments in the United States to do the same,” said Ernesto Pichardo.

In a July 11, 2008 Legal Note (attached) by Police Legal Advisor Nicole Nixon, Police Legal Bureau, the memorandum informs Miami-Dade Police Department that, “In order to protect religious freedom, officers must be mindful of the religious rights of all individuals, including practices involving the humane slaughter of animals, prior to effecting arrests pursuant to Florida Statutes §828.12, Cruelty to animals.”

The Legal Note makes reference to the historical 1993 case of the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye case against the City of Hialeah and its resulting favorable opinion, as well as responding Florida legislation in regard to animal sacrifice.  The Florida Legislature codified this principal creating the Humane Slaughter Act, which specifically states the handling, preparation, and ritual slaughter of livestock is not a crime (S828.22).  The Legal Note specifically instructs the police department on what actions must be taken when an officer arrives on the scene and determines that animals were killed during a religious ritual.  This note, the first in the State of Florida, becomes part of the Law Enforcement Handbook for the Miami-Dade County Police Department.

“This is a victory indeed and a major first step of the county, but it’s only a small step in the global scope of our mission to educate and protect the public. We are prepared to chisel away at this critical issue one step at a time: one municipality, one county, one state, until the whole country adopts the same police procedures, and follows the First Amendment universally,” said Attorney David Aelion.

“Police Departments are first responders when calls to service are involved, and it only makes sense that all officers be properly educated and properly trained in how to handle these specific calls without infringing upon anyone’s constitutional rights. On this specific Coral Gables incident, the caller himself told the 911 operator that he thought it was a religious ceremony taking place relative to the sounds of animals he was reporting. Despite that specific reference from the caller, Gables Police still had 19 police units and 25 police officers report to the private home with guns drawn and pointed at the Santeria practitioners in the home and even closed off the street to traffic. This is a grossly disproportionate response to the 911 call placed, and an outright violation of their Freedom of Religion and direct attack on Santeria,” added Aelion.

“Because of my personal stake in this matter, being a student of Religious Studies, I’m not going to stop until I see that the entire nation ratifying the constitution in this most honorable way that Miami-Dade County has done. I applaud their bold move, even if it came fifteen years later.  Now others must follow suit, instantly, today. Our job has just begun,” added Aelion.

            David Aelion is a 1995 Nova Law School graduate and a current Religious Studies Masters Degree Candidate at Florida International University. A successful entrepreneur, Aelion often defends the indigent, taking on pro-bono cases of moral, spiritual and human interests, such as this.  He is a deeply spiritual man whose practice of law is primarily guided by his passion and respect for human rights, the general welfare of humanity, and his solid family linage, which includes historical religious, legal and political figures.

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