Bushmeat Prosecution in New York Starts Amid Religious Claims

For many years, the market for “bushmeat” has been increasing in major cities among immigrants. This is often done through private distributors who sell the meat in secret. Now, a case in Brooklyn will be heard by a jury, possibly leading to the first incarceration for someone accused of importing pieces of baboon, green monkey and warthog. Mamie Manneh, 39, of Staten Island, is an immigrant from Liberia and is accused of falsely labeling her delivery and failing to obtain proper permits. She could get five years. She, however, is arguing that the prosecution violates her free exercise of religion and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.It is a doubtful claim. Courts have limited the enforcement of federal and state laws the prevent religious observations. However, religions are expected to comply with basic health and safety laws.The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enacted by Congress to protect free exercise of religion.  One case of obvious interest in any argument should be ruling in 2006 where the Supreme Court by 8-0 ruled against the federal government’s attempt to enforce the Controlled Substances Act against  O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal, a Spiritst Christian sect originating in the Amazon Rainforest. The religion has only 130 members in the U.S. and brews a sacramental tea from plants containing hallucinogens regulated by the Controlled Substances Act. Chief Justice Roberts held that “We do not doubt that there may be instances in which a need for uniformity precludes the recognition of exceptions to generally applicable laws under (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) . . . But it would have been surprising to find that this was such a case, given the longstanding exemption from the Controlled Substances Act for religious use of peyote, and the fact that the very reason Congress enacted RFRA was to respond to a decision denying a claimed right to sacramental use of a controlled substance.”  For the full story, click here