The Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. (Lukumi) (plaintiff) practiced the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria. Santeria requires ritualistic animal sacrifice, and in most ceremonies, the sacrificed animals are eventually eaten. When the Lukumi announced it was establishing a church in the City of Hialeah, Florida (defendant), the city adopted several ordinances that prohibited ritualistic animal sacrifices. Lukumi challenged the ordinances in federal district court on the ground that they violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion. The district court upheld the ordinances as constitutional, and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.