Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Dispute Over Kosher Certification Agencies Dismissed On Ecclesiastical Abstention Grounds

In Chimichurri v. Vaad Hakashrusof the Five Towns Far Rockaway, (Sup Ct Nassau Cnty NY, May 17, 2022), a New York state trial court dismissed on ecclesiastical abstention grounds a suit by a restaurant owner against a kosher certification agency.  The monopoly of a community-wide certification agency was broken when two rabbis formed a competing agency.  53 rabbis issued a letter urging members of the community not to patronized establishments certified by the new agency.  A restaurant making use of the new agency sued, claiming the letter cost it $156,000 per year in revenue. In dismissing the suit, the court said in part:

Here, the dispute is essentially one that involves the religious principles concerning the Kashrut, or Jewish dietary laws. Cases have long recognized that such disputes are ecclesiastical in nature....

It is apparent that the Defendant represents the efforts of the Five Towns and Rockaway community to break away from the historical disagreement over the laws of Kashrut and to develop generally agreed upon standards for that particular community. The Plaintiff chose to deviate from that. This Court is precluded, by the First Amendment, from considering the merits of the Plaintiff’s contentions arising from these facts.

The Forward reports on the decision.