Krishna couple gets support in fight to keep cows in village

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A couple who practice the Krishna Consciousness branch of Hinduism have received support from two national Hindu organizations in their fight to keep cows in the village of Angelica.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday on whether an injunction that forced Linda and Stephen Voith to move their animals is valid.

The Voiths say the cows are integral to the practice of their religion, which protects and celebrates cows. The Allegany County village says they violate local law governing the keeping of farm animals.

The Hindu American Foundation and World Hindu Council are among organizations that have weighed in on the Voiths’ behalf. A legal brief urges the appellate judges to prevent Angelica from enforcing its Farm Animal Law against them, arguing it violates their constitutional freedom to practice religion.

“While the religious views of the Voiths may seem peculiar, perhaps especially so in an agricultural community where the raising of cattle for food is widely known, their unfamiliarity is no reason to discount them,” wrote Robert Moest, an attorney for the two Hindu organizations, in a legal brief.

The Voiths have said they believe village officials and some neighbors have targeted them because their treatment of cows as members of the family does not sit well in an agricultural area with beef and dairy farms.

They accuse the village of selectively enforcing its ordinance.

“Our neighbor runs a beef farm behind our house,” Stephen Voith said. “He is allowed to raise beef cows and billy goats on a one-acre parcel right next to our property. Only our cows have been banned.”

A telephone message for attorney Ray Bulson, who is representing the village, was not returned Monday.

The Voiths’ attorney, Ross Scott, said he would argue that the village has improperly enforced its the Farm Animal Law on the Voiths. The law prohibits farm animals without a permit unless the owner has at least 10 acres of land. The Voiths live on 2.5 acres and lease 12 acres nearby. The law, Scott said, does not require the land to be contiguous.

Scott also will argue that the law should not apply to the Voiths because it improperly impedes on their religious practices, and that the lower court judge would not allow the Voiths to fully present their case at trial because he would not allow discussion of religion.

“This case concerns the ability of a few hostile neighbors to destroy the religious practices of an unpopular minority,” Scott said.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
AP, via, USA
Apr. 3, 2006
Carolyn Thompson

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday April 5, 2006.
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