TRACY, CA - A Tracy neighborhood is divided over the practice of animal sacrifice as part of a woman's religious tradition.
Betty Marquez is one of at least 22,000 Americans who practice the complex blend of East-African and Caribbean religious tradition known as Santeria.
But to some neighbors, the ritual slaughter of geese and goats at a Tracy woman's home is too close for comfort.
"I don't care what they do to express their religious belief, but I don't believe it should be in a residential area," said neighbor Vicki Pease. She is worried about the animal sacrifices that take place at her neighbors home and the impact it could have on children in the neighborhood.
Marquez said the sacrifice of animals is part of her protected right to practice her religion. "We treat them with respect all the way up until the moment that we [sacrifice] them. After that, we cook it, we eat it ourselves and we offer it," she said.
Last weekend, Marquez was cited by Tracy code enforcement officer for having a goat on her property, which is located inside city limits. But that citation is being reconsidered because the goat was only at the home for a short time before being sacrificed.
Neighbor Joe Oliveira said he's never heard or noticed anything disturbing coming from the Marquez home. "If it is part of their religion, I mean, that's one of our first rights is the right to religion," he said.
The majority of complaints however have nothing to do with the animals, but rather the parking problem that creeps up when Marquez holds religious gatherings at her home. She has agreed to work with the city to ease those parking concerns.
Next-door neighbor Elaine Diaz-Miller said she has heard the occasional sound of conga drums during daylight hours. "It's got kind of a beat and and I think it's kind of cool sometimes," she said. "They seem to be good people."
Tracy police Sgt. Tony Sheneman said a 1993 Supreme Court decision gave those who practice Santeria the right to follow their traditions. "The Supreme Court held that the state cannot restrict the ritual slaying of animals for religious reasons," he said.
As for the occasional sights and sounds of her faith, Marquez believes it's far less offensive than many other things her neighborhood endures. "People have parties with DJ's, people getting drunk, driving up and down the street, shooting, fighting, and we don't do that. We don't even drink."
By Dave Marquis firstname.lastname@example.org