Santerian Neighbors - Need Help


Greetings - I just found this website today (although I have certainly heard of Catholic Answers/First Things) and I am hoping y’all can help me out. I live next door to Santerians – we have 1/4 acre lots, so we are on top of each other. If you are not familiar with them, this is a religion that originates with West (I think) African slaves who were brought to the New World and owned by Spanish owners. They were forcibly converted to Catholicism and took on some of the signs of the one true religion to hide the fact that they were still worshipping their African gods. They worship Catholic saints as their gods; i.e., St. Peter is the god of war, St. Anthony, the god of iron, etc. These saints also have other names, but they have confused the two. They make offerings to these gods, including chickens, which are slaughtered next door on a regular basis, and goats. I have had decomposing goat heads near my fence, and there is one right now on their deck. Apparently, Easter is a big deal for them. My question is this: Does anyone know of any Catholic tracts/pamphlets that would best respond to some of their beliefs? I left some tracts on their windshields a couple of days ago, but I would like to continue to do this on a regular basis. Basically, they’re running a “church” out of their house, and there are always services. They call themselves “Spanish Catholics,” so I thought maybe they would respond to seeing the Truth!!! Help!!! Ayudenme!!! (Sorry, I teach Spanish and French!) Thank you!!!


Is the problem the decomposing goat heads, that you believe they are running a church out of their home and that causes unwanted traffic or that they follow a different religion?

If the first two–have you talked to them? Have you asked them to please dispose of the goat heads in a more sanitary manner? Do you know for a fact that they are Santerian or are you assuming it? Are you positive that they are having services rather than just slaughtering livestock for food?

Are they perhaps immigrants who are simply doing things as they might have been done in their country of origin and unaware that we have different customs regarding disposal of animal remains, keeping livestock in city limits, etc? This has been an issue with some Hispanic, Caribbean and African immigrants in our area, who to the best of my knowledge are not Santerian. They are aware that there are laws regarding keeping livestock, slaughtering livestock, etc.

Do you have covenants and a homeowners’ association? Have you investigated health codes and zoning restrictions for your area? Any of these may cover the livestock issue, disposal of the remains and whether or not they can run a religious organization out of their home (or they may show you that none of the above is any of your business as it is legal on private property in your area). You will get much farther in this if you approach it from the actual issues rather than because of their religion (which is, honestly, none of your business).

Is this a rental situation or do they own the house? If a rental, you could approach the landlord about the unsanitary conditions.

Frankly, if it were me, leaving tracts under my windshield wipers would simply tick me off, just as if another of your neighbors who happened to be an extreme fundamentalist Protestant suddenly began leaving Jack Chick tracts on your windshield or front door regularly in order to save you .

Would you be this upset if a group of Baptists were having regular Bible studies next door generating the same amount of traffic?

In the end, the sanitation issues and possibly the traffic issues may validly be your concern, but trying to coverlty convert them through leaving tracts on their cars certainly oversteps the bounds of appropriate behavior in a neighbor to my mind. It will also not resolve the sanitation issues.


Sorry, that should read “They are not aware…”


You have asked several questions, and I will answer all of them, however, I have to say that as someone who has never met me, I am at a loss as to how you arrived at certain assumptions concerning my issues with the neighbor.

Yes, I am absolutely sure that they are Santerian, as they have told us so. They have also claimed to be “Spanish Catholics,” which bothers me on several levels. There are so many misconceptions out there about our faith, and if they are presenting themselves to others as “Catholic,” it is hardly surprising that others have such erroneous beliefs about our faith.

Of course we have talked to them, as have several neighbors, the HOA, the Zoning commission, the USPS, and the police. They don’t care. They have been asked not to park all over the cul-de-sac and block our driveways and mailboxes. They do it anyway. They have parked - at the neighbor’s direction - in the driveway of a vacant home for sale. Would you be interested in living in a home if you can’t park there to see it? Not likely. I know that it is a “religious service,” because we can witness what takes place in the back yard and hear the chanting, not to mention the cries of the animals being slaughtered.

To be completely honest with you, Karen, I found your insinuations of racism/xenophobia on my part very upsetting. As it happens, they are Americans. Many who attend the services are white, many others are black. I don’t care what their beliefs are, except in the sense that I am concerned for their souls, of course. Additionally, I am bilingual, teach foreign languages at the HS and college level, and have lived abroad myself. Cultural differences do not threaten me, on the contrary. You have no right to sit in judgement on me or make assumptions about my charachter.

To continue, they are in violation of zoning ordinances. Because they are not a registered church, zoning cannot do anything regarding church services being held here. Short of witnessing them passing a collection plate and providing evidence of such, there doesn’t appear to be a way around that. They are in violation of ordinances regarding livestock as well, but continue to get away with it. They park illegally, yet the police never ticket them. When they finally leave (after 3-7 days), we generally have to pick up a great deal of trash from our yards. They dump blood and animal products into the drains and gutters on the street. The Health dept. says that the amount is not enough to warrant action but they’ve never investigated. The HOA continues to tell us that “something will be done,” but still we wait. Their chanting and screaming animals have woken my small children, one of whom has recently started screaming about hearing ghosts in his room. They are in violation of several covenants, which we have researched, and we have contacted zoning, the health dept., animal control, the local police, the HOA, and our state delegate. We are considering contacting the local media if the HOA does not act.

The fact is that this homeowner does not give a fig about anyone else, as proven by his actions and his lack of common courtesy. Because these people claim to be “Catholic” or to have a lot in common with Catholocism, my thought was to educate them somewhat in that regard. My question was if anyone was aware of tracts that might address some of the issues that they have misconstrued, i.e., the communion of saints, the existence of ONE God, or the final sacrifice of Our Lord. I didn’t realize that I was such a horrible person for wanting to give them a little piece of the Truth.

For you to sit in judgement of me is completely uncalled for. For your information, I HAVE received ugly tracts from fundamentalists, and I just move on. At the same time, I was not blocking their driveway, preventing the delivery of their mail, leaving trash in their yards, screaming late into the night, dumping animal remains in the gutter in front of their home, or anything else of this nature. Am I perfect? Of course not. But my mama raised me to be considerate of others; too bad their mamas didn’t do the same. Having seen those Chick tracts and the like, I don’t know why you would think that those are the kind of thing I am looking for. Although, quite frankly, I don’t really care if I upset any of them at this point, that is not my goal, but rather to educate them about what the Church DOES teach. Why would you assume otherwise?

You are not living in our situation, and I am frankly quite upset at the personal note of your message. When you do live in a home with a neighbor such as ours, whose actions are having a direct impact on your life, your property value, and the emotional well-being of your small children, how will you feel if someone tells you “It’s none of your business”?

I only just joined this group, and I was looking for help. Your message is making me rethink that decision.


I’m not sure exactly what the local laws are in your area, but you might want to look into the civil law option of a nuisance claim. It sounds like their activities are inhibiting your ability to enjoy your property.

I know how HOAs are–they move about as quickly as molasses in February.

In the mean time I would encourage you to document everything you can–photos of decomposing goat heads (I’m surprised the health department isn’t concerned with this), videos of what’s going on in the back yard, and it never hurts to write down license plate numbers of the illegally parked cars.

Just a few thoughts.

*Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer so do not rely on my advice, seek the advice of local counsel. * :slight_smile:


smsteska, have you talked with these folks about your concerns with decaying animal parts and/or the traffic issues?

When reading your post, you said you had a Home Owners association, do you and your neighbors pay dues to this? If so, maybe you could kindly remind them that your dues may be withheld until such time that they feel fit to correct the problem.

As for the decaying, openly exposed animal remains. They as you have pointed out DO pose a health issue for your family. Diseases, scavenger animals posing a safety risk to your children and possible contamination of the soil are all concerns and for your local health officials not to take that seriously is beyond reason. It may very well be time to bring in the press, but I would focus on the lack of law enforcement more then this group practicing their faith, in todays mixed up world, you just might be labeled and accused of a “hate crime”:eek:

I applaud your attempts at trying to present the True Faith to them, you have planted the seeds, now let the Holy Spirit grow them.

I will keep you and your family in my prayers. And if I may offer a suggestion that I once read on a parenting site concerning Bad Dreams with young children. When your child wakes in the middle of the night with a nightmare, simply turn on the light and grab your vacuum cleaner. Vacuum the child’s bedroom, concentrating under the bed and tell your child that all the “bad ghosts” are sucked up into the machine and then simply throw away the bag. :thumbsup: ,Worked with my children.


Do you have one of those local “Problem Solvers” on the newscasts? If so, I’d call them up, and explain the problem to them. Explain the apathy on the part of the HOA, the Health Department, the police, but, like the previous poster cautioned, keep the religion of the neighbors out of it.

Concern yourself with the safety and well-being of your family first, then evangelizing your neighbors.

Check out this website when taking that second step:


Suggestion: Videotape a ceremony or two, and give copies to the HOA, to the health department, the police, and maybe the local press too.


**You have asked several questions, and I will answer all of them, however, I have to say that as someone who has never met me, I am at a loss as to how you arrived at certain assumptions concerning my issues with the neighbor. **

You presented that you had difficulty with Santerian neighbors who left out goat heads and you responded by putting tracts on their windshields. That was all the information you provided and I answered on the basis of that information.

There is no “of course” about what you have or have not done. I have long since given up the notion that everyone will do what appears logical and obvious to me. You will note that I was asking for clarification of what the issues were and giving suggestions based on possibilities…

It would appear that the issues are indeed the sanitation and traffic ones, which will not be solved by tracts on their windshields.

In my opinion, which is not a legal one, of course, you will only muddy the waters and negatively impact your efforts to seek relief from the actual issues–their failure to follow local codes and laws–by mixing in proselytizing to them in any fashion.

**To be completely honest with you, Karen, I found your insinuations of racism/xenophobia on my part very upsetting. **

I did not accuse you of racism or xenophobia. I asked if it were possible that your neighbors were immigrants who were not familiar with local laws because, as I said, that has come up in our area, and folks have made incorrect assumptions about them because of that, including about their religion.

If you have pursued all the avenues you have mentioned, I would agree with the other poster and suggest contacting the media. In addition I would be documenting everything as fully as possible–time-stamped photos, calls to various governmental agencies and HOA, etc.


Under no circumstances should you do that!

Videotaping or otherwise recording people without their permission is illegal! We recently had a person go to prison for using a tape recorder to document a local politician accepting a bribe. The politician walks free because the tape is inadmissible and the recorder is now in jail. Don’t risk it, your tip to the appropriate agency constitutes enough cause for a search warrant, let them find the evidence.

Also, zoning restrictions will do nothing in this case, it is their constitutional right to hold religious services on their property. You don’t need special zoning to hold religious services in your private residence. However, the animal slaughter would surely draw some pressure from PETA and the ASPCA if you were to go that route.


I do not know of any tracts offhand, unfortunately, but I do suggest that you inform the police and the local media of this. Also, any local animal-rights groups might be interested in this case.

Keep up the one true Catholic Faith by your word and action, and may God grant you the grace to deal with this situation.


A few years ago some people in our community tried to cause a big animal rights stink because they found some decapitated chickens in a cemetary.

What they were really concerned about was someone practicing Santerianism…but they brought out the whole “unspeakable cruelty to animals” thing…well…does anyone know how millions of chickens are slaughtered daily to feed our country? I do. I lived in a city where butchering poultry was the main industry…they are hung by their feet and decapitated. And they aren’t really happy about being hung upside down…they squawk a bit…

anyway…you have plenty of real violation of laws and ordinances, so no need to cook up any emotional ones. If the law enforcement doesn’t step up (they are probably dragging their feet because they know this is a pressure cooker), then I agree…go to a newpaper or local news station and point out that these people are violating laws, sanitation, HOA…and all that good stuff. I wouldn’t even mention their faith if I were you, because really, all that stuff would be just as annoying, unsanitary,and unlawful etc if they were doing it for other reasons.

I find people leaving religious tracts on my windsheild to be offensive, no matter what. I don’t mind them handing them out on street corners, preaching in public, or whatever…but keep your **** off my car and property if I don’t give you permission. I won’t patronize businesses that advertise that way either, and yes…I let them know.

good luck, you have a really difficult situation there.



That is not true if they are performing a ceremony in public view. Also, videotaping the mess that she has to clean up in her yard is as reasonable as taking a photo, and has more impact. For instance, this stuff:

*They park illegally, yet the police never ticket them. When they finally leave (after 3-7 days), we generally have to pick up a great deal of trash from our yards. They dump blood and animal products into the drains and gutters on the street.

*She could also videotape her kids in her own house with the chanting and screams of animals dying in the background:

Their chanting and screaming animals have woken my small children, one of whom has recently started screaming about hearing ghosts in his room.

Indeed this route is one I would take.


Precisely. Truly, it isn’t any different than the Chick tracts. The folks who use those don’t think they are handing out hate literature, they are doing so out of sincere concern for the souls of the folks to whom they give the tracts, hoping to help them see the Truth and Light and save their eternal souls. They think they are doing the recipients a great favor. I have yet to meet a recipient of any of it who appreciated it.

From what you (OP) are saying, it sounds like you don’t really care primarily about what the neighbors believe as long as it doesn’t intrude on your life and use of your property, which is very reasonable. If that is the case, focus on the actual issues–their illegal actions and how they impact others-- not their beliefs.

In essence, by putting religious tracts on their cars you are doing exactly what they are doing (at least in part) and it won’t help your cause. You are attempting to impose your specific religious faith on those who have not asked to participate and don’t want to, you are just doing so in a more sanitary and quieter fashion.


If they are doing this on the front lawn where they are exposed to the general public, snap away. If they are in their backyard where they will argue they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, I wouldn’t go taking pictures.

Videotaping the mess she has to clean up? Do you mean the neighbor? If you are videotaping the neighbor’s yard you can expect a lawsuit. Backyard does not constitute public view and you are afforded a certain level of privacy. What you are recommending is that pictures be taken of people on private property without their consent. No matter how you dress it up, that’s exactly what you are doing and that is a crime at worst, and at best, it provides evidence that could never be used against the neighbors. I’d like to remind you that they have a constitutional right to practice their religion, the government is going to tread very lightly around anything that resembles infringing upon freedom of religion.

Sacrificing animals CAN be illegal, but is not necessarily. The same protection that allows me to, for example, raise a few rabbits and cook them, also applies to these people. Legally, the only thing you have that could possibly stick would be cruelty to animals if, in fact, the treatment of them is cruel. If your locality has an ordinance against keeping certain types of animals, well, maybe you have that too. For the sake of removing this practice from your sight, your best bet is to get the animal rights groups involved. However, if I were you, I would be prepared for the simple reality that they have a legal right to practice their religion (no matter how incompatible it is with ours) and at best they will probably just build a higher fence or move the ceremonies indoors.


If you have an HOA, you must have guidelines and agreements. I know in our HOA there is a clause that specifically states that only “commonly accepted domesticated pets” be allowed. In fact, I think it specifically states no goats (but then again, I live in Mississippi :wink: ). There’s another one that states that animals not be bred on the property (I don’t know if they breed their own animals in your case). Check out what your HOA rules are, see if there’s anything that violates them, then, like a previous poster suggested, withhold dues until something is done.


Well, no, videotaping the mess in her own yard. Why would she be cleaning up the neighbor’s yard? How about videotaping or photographing the bloody street drain. That type of thing.

You don’t have to remind me of anything. I think you’re getting upset and that’s not necessary. No matter how you dress it up, there are circumstances where videotaping IS legal, and I think the OP is in his or her rights to videotape the things that are legal to tape, including the noises in her own house coming from the chants and dying animal screams next door.
Of course they have the freedom to practice their religion, but there are laws, which are limits to behavior , that must be obeyed- specifically if their behavior infringes on the rights of their neighbors.


Exactly - tape and photograph anything that doesn’t occur specifically on their property, including the noises, and contact local newspapers and tv stations about doing a story on it as well!

While people may have a right to practice their religion, if their doing so breaks common health and safety laws then I imagine it wouldn’t be allowed regardless.


Thank you all for answering and for your suggestions and concerns. To clarify on a couple of issues that have come up. We do have HOA covenants/rules, etc., and they are in violation of several, i.e., poultry or livestock on the property, dumping of waste, or for that matter, trash on THEIR property in sight of ours. HOA has been very lax in enforcing them, or even answering us. They did just call today and ask to meet with all the neighbors. That’s the first time in 3 years they’ve seemed at all concerned. As for zoning laws and religious meetings, they do, at least here, have laws that regulate where you can have a church, specifically meant to address exactly these type of issues, I imagine. But they are not a registered church, and therein lies the problem. In our particular situation, our backyards back up to other backyards. So their expectation of privacy can’t be much!!! If I don’t pull the blinds when we’re eating after dark, I feel like I’m on display. I can easily see 8-9 back yards from my sunroom, without changing my seat. If we were on 2 acre lots, I wouldn’t much care, I don’t think. Unfortunately, they can’t build a bigger fence, as the HOA would make them take it down. The first goat incident, zoning asked my permission to come on my property and take a photo of the decomposing head. I would therefore assume that if I’m on MY property, I can film without too much worry, but I will certainly check on that with your warnings. Thanks for that.

The tract that I left was specifically about the Eucharist and Our Lord’s Sacrifice. It explained OUR teachings, and didn’t address any other faith. For the record, the homeowner has referred to himself as a “Spanish Catholic” when speaking to us at times, and has said we have a lot in common. Uh, no. That was part of what motivated me to leave the info. There are already so many minsconceptions about our faith out there. If people think he’s Catholic, no wonder they think we worship saints!!!

I’ll let y’all know if anything is ever cleared up. Thank you again! God bless!


I would make liberal use of any towing services on a regular basis.
And instead of leaving things on people’s cars, I would tell them to their faces that you find it rather interesting that they claim to be Catholic when, in fact, they have already divulged that they are merely pantheists who deify Catholic Saints.

If they respond with something along the lines of “well it’s not our fault people tried to convert our ancestors,” say “but it is your fault that you deliberately misrepresent the Catholic faith to others.”

I would also make it quite clear to them that I was going to great lengths to curtail some of their more disruptive activities and that they can rest assured that these efforts will eventually come to fruition. Then I’d say all of the “but I hope we can still be friends,” probably with an unreasonably sarcastic tone, but whatever.

Then again, I’m not a very nice person sometimes, you should probably ignore this advice.

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