Headless Chicken Discovered at Justice Center

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A headless chicken was found inside a box on the doorsteps of the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center Wednesday morning, a sheriff's department spokesman said.

As sickened as some may be by the headless chicken, it was most likely a religious practice, therefore, protected under the constitution.

"Headless chickens at the courthouse, we would expect nothing less," joked attorney Nicholas Celebrezze, outside the Justice Center.

Case Western Reserve University Political Science Professor Laura Tartakoff says this was most likely done by someone who practices Santeria -- a religion popular in many Latin countries, such as Cuba.

"Santeria, we could say briefly, is an Afro-Caribbean religion which combines worship of African deities with Roman Catholic practices," Tartakoff said.

However, she said, animal sacrifice is a part of the practice -- mostly chickens and goats.

"Often the animals that are sacrificed are eaten. When the animal, in this case, to be specific, the chicken, is left in a certain place. It's an invocation, a prayer, hoping that their wish will come true," Tartakoff said.

According to the UCLA Department of Anthropology website, in countries where Santeria is widely practiced, it is not uncommon to find a headless chicken on the doorsteps of a courthouse or government building.

Some believe it will help them win their court case.

"I would hope my clients would not do that, and I don't think it would help at all," Celebrezze said.

"I think it's a terrible thing to do, and especially with kids in there," said Barbara Alvarado, of Cleveland.

A sheriff spokesman said deputies were investigating the case of the headless chicken, but Tartakoff said if it was done as a Santeria practice, it is protected by the constitution.

"The Supreme Court found that Americans, we have a right to free exercise and protected in minority religion like Santeria," Tartakoff said.

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