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At the request of the northern Arapaho tribe in Wyoming, the US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a permit that sanctions the killing of two bald eagles, birds that have been removed from the federal list of threatened species since 2007. While the tribe plans to use these eagles for religious ceremonies, the issuing of this permit has enraged particular subsets of the US population.

Behold – those who employ plastic flutes to lure birds out in the open in efforts to shoot at them for fun, and those who annually call upon giant egg-delivering bunny rabbits, will be among the first to admonish this Native American tribe for their desire to kill the bald eagles for use in a private religious ceremony.

Not adequately stated? Here is another lens through which to view this issue: a nation responsible for nearly exterminating (among other inhabitants) the buffalo – a sacred animal amongst conquered Native tribes of the US Great Plains – cries foul when those tribes apply for a permit to slay two units of a purely symbolic animal of the conqueror’s nation.


At surface level this may appear to be an article that argues for or against the desecration of a national symbol. This is incorrect. Instead, I aim to convey a simple lesson, that is, we are not required to respect the beliefs of other human beings. We are required to respect the right of a human being to maintain his or her own set of beliefs. This is an important distinction.

What one tribe desires to do with two bald eagles under US Law should be their own business. However given our respect for one’s right to believe in something, it is difficult to ignore the constant companionship of unfounded, faith-based beliefs with ridiculous, unsustainable, and often right-infringing practices. Albeit killing a bird for a deity or preventing a woman to show her skin in public, Homo sapiens may greatly increase our evolutionary ‘fitness’ when we abandon such faith-based traditions that divinely insist upon odd dietary restrictions, gender imbalances, or even animal and human sacrifice.

Article published by on 1/17/2012

By Brian T. Murphy

To Kill a Bald Eagle:

The (Dead) Beacon of Religious Freedom

A Native American tribe is issued a permit to kill two bald eagles for their religious ceremony. Remaining American buffalo fear reprisal as a result of the decision.

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