North Miami Beach has fired two police department employees after they allegedly were caught in the office trying to cast a Santeria curse on the city manager shortly before mass layoffs were planned. Veteran officer Elizabeth Torres and office manager Yvonne Rodriguez were canned last week over the ceremony, says Mark Perkins, a spokesman for the city.
"There was some kind of ritual they were planning inside the city offices," Perkins tells Riptide. "They were caught in the planning stages."
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Torres admitted to investigators that, with Rodriguez help, she had approached a janitor named Esther Villanueva on Aug. 29 to ask if she'd help spread birdseed around City Manager Lyndon Bonner's office.
The pair can appeal their termination, and the case is sure to raise plenty of questions about freedom of religion.
Local activists like Ernesto Pichardo have won numerous court battles to afford Santeria adherents the same First Amendment protections as other believers.
It's worth asking hypothetically: Would the city have canned two employees if they were caught praying together in the hallway outside the city manager's office?