Irvine, CA – A California court ban on the practice of kaparos has two major Orthodox Jewish organizations expressing concern that the move could set a precedent that would further limit religious practices in violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment.
A lawsuit filed by United Poultry Concerns against Chabad of Irvine alleged that the practice of kaparos violates the California penal code which forbids the use of slaughtering animals for any purposes other than human consumption. According to the Orange County Register, a similar request for a temporary restraining order was denied last fall.
In its lawsuit, filed on September 26th in Santa Ana, a lawyer for the Irvine based group charged that chickens were caged in inhumane conditions, mishandled and then left for dead among live birds.
Because of California licensing laws regarding the slaughter of animals intended for human consumption, kaparos chickens in the state were typically discarded. The lawsuit also noted that there were alternative methods for performing kaparos that did not involve killing chickens.
The United States District Court for the Central District of California granted the request for the temporary restraining order on October 7th and a hearing on the matter is scheduled for Thursday, one day after Yom Kippur.
Brian Pease, a lawyer for the Virginia based United Poultry Concerns said that the organization was also considering taking legal actions against other groups that perform kaparos with chickens.
“This is a first step in the ultimate goal to show that it is illegal in the state of California and most other states to intentionally kill an animal as punishment for your sins,” said Pease.
The restraining order did not affect kaparos performed in a slaughterhouse or in a location that could prove that the animals would be used for food in accordance with California law, said Pease.
In a joint statement released this afternoon by the Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union, Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive vice president of the RCA, said that the practice of religion is as vital as for Orthodox Jews as food and noted that California law does allow for the slaughter of animals for purposes other than food.
“We are deeply concerned about the implications of this decision,” said Rabbi Dratch. “It comes in the midst of other government actions that aim to limit religious expression when it clashes with values embraced by parts of society. We see this as a worrisome trend.”