If Nothing Else, We Learn That In a Fight Over a Goat Sacrifice, the Goat Always Loses

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

The sleepy suburb of Euless seems an odd spot for a battle over goat sacrifice. Perhaps that's what first attracted us to the story of Jose Merced, a commercial flight attendant who also happens to be a high priest in the Afro-Cuban religion called Santería, in which animal sacrifice serves as a principal form of devotion. We wrote about Merced in the paper version of Unfair Park back in October, in a piece that chronicles how the city of Euless first prohibited him from sacrificing goats on his property; how he sued them in district court and lost; and finally, how he appealed the decision to a federal appeals court and won.

When we left him, it seemed likely that his case -- Jose Merced v. City of Euless -- would land in the U.S. Supreme Court. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals did not decide Merced's case on First Amendment grounds, but rather on its interpretation of the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Nevertheless, the case received international fame as a victory for religious freedom. The appeals court also ordered the city of Euless to pay Merced's attorneys' fees, but left the amount for the lower court to determine.

Although the city of Euless decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court, they continued to fight, particularly after Merced's lawyers at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty asked for approximately $350,000 in legal fees. A U.S. district judge set a hearing to determine the fees on January 14, but Euless demanded a jury trial. More delay. More costs.

"Euless City Council never seems to learn," Eric Rassbach at the Becket Fund told Unfair Park in early January. "Not only do they still have their own lawyers' meters running on a case they lost last July, they also have our meters running. ... Euless taxpayers ought to start asking council members how much money they've spent so far and how much more they intend to spend fighting the last war."

That last war finally ended yesterday.

Not in a jury trial, however. Instead, the district judge ordered the parties to hold a private mediation, where it was agreed that Euless would pay $175,000 in plaintiff attorney fees. Case closed, right?

Well, not exactly.

"As it pertains to Mr. Merced, I suppose so," says Bradford Bullock, one of the attorneys representing Euless. "As it pertains to the Texas law at issue, no, I don't think it's the end of that."

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.