NYCLU EXPRESSES CONCERNS OVER ENDANGERED RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN TOWN OF ANGELICA
The Western Regional Office of the New York Civil Liberties Union expressed serious concern about the conviction of an Allegany County farm owner for illegally harboring animals in the rural town of Angelica on November 28th.
In July of this year, Mr. and Mrs. Steven and Linda Voith were cited under an old town ordinance for keeping cows on their farm without a permit signed by their neighbors -- even though both of their neighbors (also within village limits) keep livestock including cows.
The Voiths and their family have long drawn the ire of many in Angelica, a rural, predominantly Christian farm community in Allegheny County, over their religious practice as Hare Krishnas, and more specifically over their keeping of cows which are sacred and revered in their religion.
As Steven Voith is facing sentencing on Wednesday, December 5th, for keeping the same animals that their neighbors also keep, albeit for different reasons, Mr. Voith is also facing a jail term of up to 15 days on a separate charge of violating a noise ordinance -- for a "mooing" cow. He faced the latter charge without being assigned counsel after his family had depleted its savings trying to defend their right to keep the sacred cows.
To prosecute a farm holder for keeping farm animals is absurd,” said Jeanne-Noel Mahoney, Executive Director of the Western Regional Office. “Angelica’s enforcement of an archaic village ordinance against people whose religious practice differs from that of the community begins to look like an old Salem witch trial, or worse yet, like the religious persecution of the Third Reich. Have we learned nothing from history?" she added.
"We will be watching the sentencing and outcome of this case very, very closely,” said Mahoney. "We can only hope that Judge Carol Trivisondoli (the sentencing judge and wife of the Angelica Mayor when the charges were initiated) will see this for what it is: religious persecution -- plain and simple".
For Further Information contact:
Jeanne-Noel Mahoney, Director, Western Regional Office at 716-852-4033
John A. Curr III, Assistant to the Director, Western Regional Office at 716-852-4033