Chapter 9 Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah

The Meaning of Free Exercise: Equality and Beyond

In: Painting Constitutional Law

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):


A purple cape. Cuts of goat meat ready to be cooked. Crutches and two dogs. Their meaning, as Xavier Cortada writes of his painting, is ambiguous. Perhaps the goat has been carved by an injured butcher for a nontraditional Christmas feast, but the symbolism also suggests that the goat may have been carved for Babalú-Ayé, one of the spiritual beings known as orishas among followers of Santería. In Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, the Supreme Court struck down a series of ordinances tailored to prohibit Santería animal sacrifice but few other killings. The ordinances were neither neutral nor generally applicable and failed to survive strict scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause. Lower courts and scholars disagree about Lukumi’s reach. Understood narrowly, Lukumi is about religious hostility; read broadly, it requires equal treatment of analogous religious and nonreligious conduct. A close look at Cortada’s painting suggests Lukumi might be even more protective.

Painting Constitutional Law

Xavier Cortada’s Images of Constitutional Rights