As the United States thaws its frosty attitude toward Cuba, some unforeseen consequences will surely surface.
For one, normalization of relations with Cuba may mean normalization of Santeria, the most popular and fastest growing religion on the island.
But many Americans view Santeria as far from normal. In fact, it seems to strain the boundaries of religious liberty.
Simply put, Santeria is a passionate combination of Catholicism and the pagan religion that African slaves brought with them to Cuba. It holds that spirit gods (orishas) can help us gain access to the more powerful gods if we court them.
Hence, in Santeria, rituals abound.
There are cleansings, of course.
There are beads bestowed and sacrifices offered — animal sacrifices.
And — as the Bard said about his massage — that, my friends, is the rub.
The Santeria faithful believe in animal sacrifice — stark and often brutal animal sacrifice.
In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such sacrifices fell under the protection of religious freedom. Groups have battled to have the ruling overturned, but to no avail. The ritual goes on.
Now, as Cuba becomes more mainstream and the United States more welcoming, animal sacrifice is likely to be an issue that draws attention.
Most of us agree our freedoms and liberties are vital. We can also agree that our freedoms do have limits.
A person’s freedom of speech doesn’t mean he can threaten the life of the president or shout “Fire!” in a crowded dance hall.
The right to bear arms doesn’t allow a militant soul to mount Big Bertha cannons from a Navy destroyer to the back deck of his house.
And being religiously free doesn’t mean you get to sacrifice virgins, as the Aztecs did, to guarantee a good crop of corn.
But for now, animal sacrifice apparently falls under the umbrella of liberty.
It will be interesting to monitor the mounting pressures as Santeria gains followers and more publicity as Cuban culture comes out of the shadows.
Already, some people are saying they can see sacrificing cold-blooded animals, for instance, but they draw the line at bigger beasts such as horses and kangaroos.
I’ve seen videos of Santeria animal sacrifices, and frankly, it's hard to see where a thumbs up would apply. The ritual is daunting.
As bizarre as it sounds, our country’s courts may have to find middle ground.
But then, splitting hairs seems to be the lot of people in a free society. We do it constantly.
We decide right down to the day when a legal abortion can be performed and when it can't.
We try to understand when an automatic rifle morphs into a machine gun.
We debate if a person can refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple but must heat up the old oven when asked by two abusive parents.
The answer to those questions, my friend, is still blowing in the wind.
Only now, we can add animal sacrifice to our full banana boat of dilemmas.