Religious freedom victory for cruel rooster-killing priestess
Despite being convicted on three counts of animal cruelty, ‘high priestess’ Mercy Carrion, above, will still be legally allowed to own live poultry for sacrificial purposes.
According to this report, Carrion, from Sterling in Virgina, was sentenced to five days in jail for each offence, suspended as long as she completes a course in how to sacrifice the creatures humanely within 12 months. She was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for each offence, with $800 suspended for each fine if she shows proof of taking the class.
Prosecuting attorney M Alexandra Hazel wanted Judge Deborah C Welsh to ban Carrion from owning poultry in the future, but the judge said agreed with defence attorney Allysa Woods that this would violate Carrion’s First Amendment rights to freely practice her religion, Santeria.
Carrion was arrested on May 5 after Loudoun County Animal Services officers found two decapitated roosters stuffed into a filing cabinet and a live rooster in a cardboard beer box saturated in faeces and urine without food or water.
LCAS officers also found blood splattered on the walls of her home, a club with a metal shield covered in blood and feathers, a knife covered in blood, religious idols, animal heads and parts skewered on sticks in a vase, among other things.
The officers began an investigation after an informant saw her run around the house, slamming the chickens into walls, bludgeoning them to death with a club, and burying and burning them alive.
Gro Mambo Danthorla Novanyon Idizol (aka Octavia Danielson), a high priestess and the executive board secretary of the National African Religion Congress (NARC), testified that Carrion is a member of her organisation. She said Carrion underwent an extensive initiation process to become a high priestess in Santeria, a pantheistic Afro-Hispanic religion that incorporates elements of Catholicism.
Idizol said the entire process of getting the animals, keeping and caring for them, killing them and disposing of them is sacred. Priestesses must care for the animals humanely, pray for them, bathe them in herbs before killing them and dispose of their bodies ritualistically.
Carrion testified that she “feeds the saints” with the blood of sacrificed animals.
Elders in the church instructed me to sacrifice three roosters, It was written I was to do this.
Carrion said she was in the middle of sacrificing the three roosters the night LCAS searched her home. The decapitated roosters were stuffed into a file cabinet once Carrion heard officers knock on her door. She said she was scared and didn’t know what to do other than try to hide the roosters’ bodies.
Judge Welsh said:
I do not believe the state statutes in question violate your free exercise of religion. They don’t in any way prevent you from sacrificing animals.