Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Court Dismisses California Law Challenge To Chabad's Kapparot Ceremony

In United Poultry Concerns v. Chabad of Irvine, (CD CA, May 12, 2017), a California federal district court dismissed a suit by an animal rights organization claiming that the annual Kapparot ceremony conducted by an Orthodox Jewish organization violates California's Unfair Competition Law.  The UCL provides civil remedies for “any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice.” The complaint alleges that the ritual as implemented by Chabad of Irvine violates the state's ban on "intentional and malicious killing of animals" other than for use as food (California Penal Code Sec. 597(a), 599c).  Chabad charges $27 to each person for furnishing and disposing of the chicken used in the pre-Yom Kippur ceremony. (See prior posting.)

In dismissing the lawsuit, the court said:
The Court cannot find, and Plaintiff does not cite a single case in which the acceptance of a donation in connection with the performance of religious ritual has been treated as a “business act” under the UCL. Moreover, the Court finds that Defendant Chabad of Irvine does not participate nor compete as a business in the commercial market by performing a religious atonement ritual that involves donations. For these reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Chabad of Irvine for a violation of the Unfair Competition Law (B.P.C. § 17200 et seq.)
First Liberty Institute issued a press release announcing the decision.  Jewish Press reported on the decision.