A nonprofit animal rights organization is appealing a federal judge’s ruling dismissing its lawsuit aiming at stopping Chabad of Irvine from sacrificing chickens in a Yom Kippur ritual, an attorney said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. on Friday dismissed United Poultry Concerns‘ lawsuit against Chabad of Irvine.
The Virginia-based nonprofit, which runs a “sanctuary for chickens,” sued the orthodox Jewish synagogue to stop it from engaging in the Kapparot, or Kaporos, ritual, which involves killing chickens to atone for sins.
Birotte ruled that the nonprofit lacked the legal standing to make the case that the ritual was a “business act” under state law.
“There are no allegations that (Chabad) solicited donations for charitable purposes, nor are there allegations that defendant did so for compensation,” Birotte wrote. “Whether the proceeds of Kapparot are donated to charity or not is inapposite, as it is required that a party be compensated for their solicitation in order to qualify as a ‘commercial fundraiser.”‘
The judge added that the nonprofit “does not have standing to enforce animal cruelty laws in the absence” of a state claim.
“Likewise, the court declines to address the merits of the parties’ arguments regarding the constitutionality of” (state law) that applies in the case, Birotte wrote in his ruling.
“We are overjoyed that the judge saw the wisdom of protecting our ability to practice a cherished tradition of our faith,” Chabad of Irvine Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum said. “We hope this victory will encourage everyone to live in peace and tolerance of everyone’s religious beliefs.”
Chabad attorney Matthew Martens said, “The court’s ruling sends a clear message — the law protects the rights of all Americans to practice their religious traditions in peace.”
“No one should attack a synagogue for peacefully practicing a tradition they’ve observed for over 1000 years,” said Hiram Sasser, an attorney for First Liberty Institute, which also represented the synagogue in the lawsuit. “This is a great victory, not only for the synagogue, but for all Americans who value our constitutional freedoms.”
United Poultry Concerns’ attorney, Bryan Peace, said the synagogue’s attorneys are misrepresenting Birotte’s ruling.
“The court did not ‘protect’ their illegal practices, which are still illegal,” Peace said. “The court only ruled that our client does not have standing as a private party to bring this action under the unfair business practices statute.”
Pease argued that the ritual violates state law because the chickens are not slaughtered for food, which is one of the exemptions the law allows.
State law “prohibits any intentional and malicious killing of an animal for any purpose, religious or not, unless there is a specified exemption, like food,” Pease said.
–City News Service
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