Adhering to Employment Division v. Smith, the lower courts deemed the law to have a legitimate and rational government purpose and therefore upheld the enactment. The Supreme Court, however, held that the ordinances were neither neutral nor generally applicable: rather, they applied exclusively to the church. Because the law was targeted at Santería, the Court held, it was not subject to an undemanding rational basis test. Rather, the nature of the case was held to mandate a standard of strict scrutiny: state action had to be justified by a compelling governmental interest, and be narrowly tailored to advance that interest. Because the ordinance suppressed more religious conduct than was necessary to achieve its stated ends, it was deemed unconstitutional, with Justice Anthony Kennedy stating in the decision, “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection”.
Somewhat similarly in 2009, a freedom of religion case related to animal sacrifice was taken to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Jose Merced, President Templo Yoruba Omo Orisha Texas, Inc., v. City of Euless. The court ruled that the Merced case of the freedom of exercise of religion was meritorious and prevailing and that Merced was entitled under the Texas Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (TRFRA) to an injunction preventing the city of Euless, Texas from enforcing its ordinances that burdened his religious practices relating to the use of animals, (see Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 110.005(a)(2)) without the court having to reach his claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Doheny, Shannon L. (2006). "Free Exercise Does Not Protect Animal Sacrifice: The Misconception of Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah and Constitutional Solutions for Stopping Animal Sacrifice". Journal of Animal Law2: 121.
O'Brien, David M. (2004). Animal sacrifice and religious freedom: Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. ISBN0-7006-1302-1.
Palmie, Stephan. “Whose centre, whose margin? Notes towards an archaeology of US Supreme Court Case 91-948, 1993 Church of the Lukumi vs. City of Hialeah, South Florida,” in Inside and outside the law: anthropological studies of authority and ambiguity, ed. Olivia Harris (Routledge, 1996).
Text of Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993) is available from: CornellJustia