In a rare and potentially landmark decision, a Wyoming Indian tribe has received federal approval to kill two bald eagles for religious ceremonies, the Associated Press reports.
The Northern Arapaho Tribe had sued the government last year, arguing its members’ religious freedom was being violated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to issue a “take” permit.
Federal law prohibits killing a bald eagle, the national bird. Eagle feathers and body parts are kept in a federal repository for tribal religious ceremonies.
The agency issued the permit Friday, allowing the tribe to kill two bald eagles off the Wind River Indian Reservation. The tribe shares the land with the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, which opposed killing the birds on the reservation.
Tip: @krelnik (Tim Farley) on Twitter
This is a troubling situation that has no “right” answer. The comments on this story say a lot. On one hand, people argue that it is on their land and the bird is no longer endangered. On the other hand, people argue killing for religion (as opposed to food or other requirement) is not justifiable. Plus, why should the law be bent for this tribe?
It is difficult for those of us who do not subscribe to spiritual beliefs associated with animals to approve of such a move. We simply can not comprehend it. But, the U.S. government has given the OK. It can be argued that laws should not be broken in the name of religion, but are they under the law on reservation land? Complicated.
When does the importance of religious and personal freedoms trump that of the rights of others (or of animals). Well, isn’t that something Americans fight about EVERY SINGLE DAY?