Don't Move To A Town With Laws That Cramp Your Style And Then Complain That They Cramp Your Style

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A couple wants to keep their livestock on their property in town. The town has laws that prohibit this, because the parcel isn't big enough. The couple does so anyway, in defiance of the law. Sounds like a classic WTW story, doesn't it?

Not really, as the couple in question are Hare Krishnas and they claim they're being discriminated against because of their religion:

Stephen and Linda Voith, followers of the Hindu-based Krishna Consciousness movement, bought a house on a two-and-a-half acre property on Main Street in 1999. Their beliefs include a concept called cow protection, in which cattle are revered. Cows are also used in the padayatra, a type of religious procession.

"She's the most important animal, because everyone is sustained by the milk," Mr. Voith said.

Officials cite a 1986 village ordinance banning livestock on lots of less than 10 acres, unless the land is part of a farm primarily outside the village or the owner gets a permit.

. . .

The Village Board denied their application for a permit, however, and after a series of court appearances at the village and county level, an acting State Supreme Court justice ruled that the ordinance did not violate the Voiths's constitutional right to religious freedom.
The Voiths are appealing to the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court. I think their only chance is to prove that the permit was denied on religious grounds, and good luck with that.

This has been going on since 1999 when they bought the house. In fact, when the Leiths were finally forced in 2003 to move the cows to another parcel of land they owned outside of town, they tried to get asylum in India:

[Voith] said he has sought asylum in India for himself and his family, including two children adopted from India. He has written to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and India's Ambassador to the U.S. Lalit Mansingh.
Too bad they didn't try a little harder.

1 Comment

I've been following this case since I first read about it in the paper a few years ago. The law requires a permit for farm animals when one's land is less than ten acres. Mr. Voith owns 2.5 and rents 10 just down the road. The villiage did would not consider the rented land, although the law does not differentiate between ownership and leasing. They then denied the permit based on obvious prejudice. The local judge wouldn't even allow Mr. Voith to give testimony.

I read that since it's in an agricultural area, and there's farm animals on many small parcels (including beef cows on an acre plot neighboring the Voiths), they expected the permit as a mere formality. In one place an attorney explained that when the law does not provide a framework for approval or disapproval, it takes a compelling public interest to deny a religious freedom. Recently the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Native Americans using peyote on these grounds. Certainly the public interest in that case is much greater than in keeping the Voiths from having their cows. These village authorities ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Anyway, that's my view. We'll see what the judge says.

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This page contains a single entry by Chris published on April 5, 2006 9:17 AM.

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