APn 07/22 0637 Santeria-Animals By RICHARD DE ATLEY Associated Press Writer LOS ANGELES (A

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APn 07/22 0637 Santeria-Animals By RICHARD DE ATLEY Associated Press Writer LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Animal torture and slayings attributed to devil worshipers and the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion appear to be increasing, and authorities are researching the tricky legal question of how to stop it. The City Board of Animal Regulation, which has relied largely on anecdotal accounts of increased ceremonial mutilation of animals, has asked for a report on the matter, outgoing board member Arthur Margolis said Thursday. "All I am aware of as an activist is that there have been animal sacrifices by satanist groups and other groups," said Margolis. He said the study should supply documentation of the problem. In suburban Hawthorne, authorities raided a home last week and seized 22 chickens, two goats, a piglet and a lamb. The officers also found four goatskins, several chicken carcasses, and evidence of backyard animal slaughter. The owner denied Santeria practices. Reed said authorities last fall found six goats bound and kept in the bathroom of a Culver City home, along with several chickens. Candles and other religious items suggested Santeria, and the owners were charged with animal cruelty. Margolis, an attorney, hopes the report will lead to consideration of a law banning animal deaths and tortures as part of a religious ceremony. He admitted a First Amendment fight would immediately follow, as it already has in one city. Officials in Hialeah, Fla., a mostly Hispanic city near Miami, passed three laws in 1987 aimed at the Santeria Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, the first public church of the sect opened in Florida. Los Angeles has no such established church. The Hialeah laws prohibit sacrifice of animals, including goats, pigs, cows, poultry, cats or dogs, animals which sect members slaughter during so called "red magic" rituals that seek favors or advice from their gods. The church sued the city in federal court alleging the laws violated their constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion. The suit is pending. Charlene Drennon, West Coast director of the Humane Society of the United States, said she believes a model law drawn up by her group would meet constitutional tests. "There have been several cases where the Supreme Court has decided how far religious freedom can go," she said Thursday in an interview from her Sacramento office. She cited a Supreme Court ruling that said smoking marijuana could not be regarded as a religious practice. Ms. Drennon said, however, that education was a better approach than law enforcement when dealing with a clash between religious practices and animal welfare. "I think it needs a very heavy duty emphasis on educating people," she said. Santeria is a mix of Roman Catholicism, voodoo, and African rituals attributed to the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. Some Roman Catholic saints borrowed by Santeria have come to represent African gods. The followers are secretive about their practice, and in most places do not have special places of worship. Efforts were unsuccessful to contact Santeria followers or priests, called santeros, in Los Angeles or Hialeah. The establishment of the religion in Los Angeles is largely manifested by the profusion of "botanicas," stores which sell supplies, statues and pictures used in Santeria and other rituals. Sociologists believe there may be as many as 50,000 practioners of Santeria in the Los Angeles Cuban immigrant community. Anthropologists estimate that related, similarly derived religions have 100 million followers in Latin America and the United States. Reed said authorities last fall found six goats bound and kept in the bathroom of a Culver City home, along with several chickens. Candles and other religious items suggested Santeria, and the owners were charged with animal cruelty.

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