Saturday, February 20, 2016

Court Rejects Free Exercise Defense To Federal Cockfighting Conviction

In United States v. Olney, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19947 (ED WA, Feb. 18, 2016), a Washington federal district court, after a bench trial, convicted Shane Scott Olney of sponsoring an Unlawful Animal Fighting Venture in violation of 7 U.S.C. § 2156(a)(1). The court rejected defendant's claim
that as a baptized Catholic, and an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation, he "has a sincerely held religious belief that the Holy Scriptures quoted in Genesis 1:26-28 ... entitles him to rule over his fighting roosters, to breed them, exhibit them, train them, and to present them for gamecock fighting."....
The court explained:
Aside from the fact that the conduct Defendant claims to be protected is not the conduct for which he was tried and convicted, the Court finds the federal statute at issue does not unconstitutionally encroach upon his First Amendment rights....
The Court finds that the statute at issue is a neutral law of general applicability and thus, it is reviewed for a rational basis.... Here, the statute is related to prevention of cruelty to animals and thus, survives rational basis review.