In the United States, the First Amendment is an important element that guarantees the freedoms provided to its citizens. However, as is often evidenced, people try to twist the First Amendment to fit with their own beliefs and desires. People don’t often understand what it truly means, and they will sometimes try to use it to get away with deplorable behavior.
The First Amendment has been used as a way for some to try to get away with animal cruelty, as is the recent case involving cockfighting. A man named Lloyd Plumbar, who says he is a pastor for Holy Fight Ministries in Louisiana, claimed cockfighting was part of his religious rights and that it should be protected as part of the First Amendment.
He was arrested on April 29, 2020, when he says he was on his way to his Sunday religious service. Livingston County deputies pulled him over and charged him with cockfighting, which is illegal in the United States. The only exception to this is in certain territories, including Guam and Puerto Rico. Interestingly, Louisiana did allow cockfighting all the way up until 2008. It was the last location in the country to ban this form of animal abuse.
The Pastor’s Argument
According to Plumbar, even though it might be deemed illegal by the country, it is part of his religious beliefs. He said that his arrest was therefore unconstitutional since it violated his religious freedom and rights. You might be wondering just how the pastor could string together an argument that he hoped would make sense.
According to his attorney, Holy Fight Ministries has a sincere religious belief that cockfighting is necessary. The attorney said, “It is a necessary symbolic physical manifestation of the struggle between good and evil, a struggle for life or death for the Salvation of the soul.” He believes that it is an important and necessary part of their religious faith. The pastor says that since man has divine dominion over animals in the Bible, the animals do not have rights.
Holy Fight Ministries is, as you would probably expect, relatively new. It was formed in 2016 as a nonprofit religious organization. Plumbar had an interest in cockfighting long before the development of his church. His name was on a petition from 2011 to legalize cockfighting.
Although the pastor might have been passionate about his case, the judge did not agree. He lost his case.
It probably shouldn’t be overly surprising, but this is certainly not the only cockfighting case in the United States that used religion as an out. In 2018, Hector Cruz pled guilty to knowingly attending a cockfight in the Bronx, New York. He also claimed that his ability to freely exercise his religion was violated.
Cases of cockfighting happen with regularity all around the United States and other parts of the world. In some locations, such as Indonesia, it is seen to be a way to ward off evil spirits, which could be one of the reasons people try to use the religious excuse for cockfighting.
The Heart of the Matter
Does the religious argument hold any sway? In the case of cockfighting, it doesn’t according to the law. The reason that so many people are interested in cockfighting is not because of the “religious experience” it can offer. Instead, it’s all about money. There is the chance for monetary gain with cockfighting just like any other type of blood sport. People place bets on the roosters. There is money in raising and selling fighting roosters. As so often happens, it comes down to greed in most cases.