Atheists sue shelter over blessing of the animals

Atheists argue shelter was mixing church and state (Bigstock)

A group of atheists is suing a New Jersey animal shelter because it used a Catholic priest to bless cats and dogs, the New York Post reports.

Last month, the Bergen County Animal Shelter enlisted a priest to carry out the blessing, according to a federal lawsuit, filed by the American Atheists in Newark.

The priest performed the ritual in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, according to the lawsuit.

But the American Atheists say the Teterboro-based shelter receives government cash and shouldn’t mix church and state. Their lawsuit claims it is a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

The fur first began to fly when Candice Yaacobi, a New Jersey atheist who has used the shelter, learned about the annual Feast of St Francis blessing, on Facebook, according to the suit.

The Facebook page proclaimed, “Tuesday afternoon was a special day for all of us, including our adoptable pets. We were graced by Reverend Kenneth Riehl from the Franciscan Order of the Divine Mercy in North Arlington for the blessing of the animals”.

The post featured photos, adding, “It was a very moving and memorable moment that touched us all”.

The blessing irked Yaacobi, who did more research — and learned the shelter is supported by state funds and Department of Health Services, according to the lawsuit.

“BCAS is supported by state funds, which it utilises in order to administer governmental services to residents of Bergen County,” the suit said.


Atheists sue shelter for using Catholic priest to ‘bless’ animals (New York Post)


Atheist group sues shelter over Catholic blessing of animals (San Francisco Chronicle/AP)

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