Judge in LA dismisses lawsuit against synagogue’s Yom Kippur chicken ritual

(JTA) — A federal judge in Los Angeles has dismissed a lawsuit against a synagogue for holding a kapparot ceremony, a pre-Yom Kippur ritual in which a chicken is swung by its legs and then slaughtered.

District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. ruled in favor of a request by Chabad of Irvine to dismiss the lawsuit filed against it in late September by animal rights activists, the Orange County Register reported Tuesday.

The suit on behalf of the Virginia-based United Poultry Concerns claimed that the practice violates the state’s unfair competition law. But Birotte wrote in his decision, which was released Friday, that the kapparot ceremony is a religious ritual supported by donations, not a “business act” covered by the unfair competition law.

A 2015 lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court that called for an end to the practice based on animal cruelty is still pending. The suit, which was filed on behalf of the San Diego-based Animal Protection and Rescue League, alleges that the chickens are crammed tightly into cages and mishandled, and are disposed of and not used for food.

Kapparot is an ancient practice performed annually by some Jews between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. By performing kapparot, a person’s sins are said to be symbolically transferred to the chicken as part of the process of atonement ahead of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The meat of the chicken is then donated to charity. Some people perform the ritual using money in place of a chicken.

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