Agudath Israel of America | Cases | First Liberty

The Kaporos Ceremony

Kaporos is a sacred religious ceremony performed by Orthodox Jewish congregations, where the atonement of sins is contemplated through prayer and the kosher and humane killing of a chicken. The ceremony serves as a reminder to the participants of their own mortality. Taking place during the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, Kaporos ceremonies are common among Jewish communities across the nation and the world and have been a core aspect of celebrating Yom Kippur for over 1,000 years.

First Liberty Legal Action

The lawsuit filed by animal rights activists in New York in part claimed that government officials must prohibit the ceremony based on an allegation that Judaism requires the ancient practice to be performed a different way. First Liberty along with volunteer attorneys from Vinson & Elkins LLP argued in a friend-of-the-court brief it is not the role of the government to tell religious communities how to exercise their religious beliefs.

Liberty Preserved

In November 2018, the Court of Appeals of the State of New York rejected demands by animal rights groups seeking to prevent Orthodox Jewish communities in New York City from participating in Kaporos.

“We’re grateful that New York’s highest court rejected this effort to force government officials to ban a thousand-year-old religious tradition,” said Roger Byron, Senior Counsel to First Liberty. “The First Amendment protects the peaceful religious practices of all faiths.  This is a victory for all Americans who value our constitutional freedoms.

The case against Agudath Israel mirrors ongoing litigation in California. First Liberty and network attorneys successfully defended Chabad of Irvine, a small Orthodox congregation, against two lawsuits brought by activists opposed to Kaporos. First Liberty continues to defend Chabad of Irvine on appeal.

Learn more about other Kaporos cases at FirstLiberty.org/Kaporos

News Release
For Immediate Release: 11.14.18
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

New York Court of Appeals Protects Religious Liberty of Orthodox Jewish Congregations
Animal rights activists had sought to prevent the longstanding religious practice   

Albany, NY—The Court of Appeals of the State of New York today rejected demands by animal rights groups seeking to prevent Orthodox Jewish communities in New York City from participating in a millennia-old religious ritual known as Kaporos.  First Liberty Institute and the law firm Vinson & Elkins LLP filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case on behalf of Agudath Israel of America to defend the right of Orthodox Jews to practice Kaporos.

“We’re grateful that New York’s highest court rejected this effort to force government officials to ban a thousand-year-old religious tradition,” said Roger Byron, Senior Counsel to First Liberty. “The First Amendment protects the peaceful religious practices of all faiths.  This is a victory for all Americans who value our constitutional freedoms.”

Kaporos is a sacred religious ceremony performed by Orthodox Jewish congregations, where the atonement of sins is contemplated through prayer and the kosher and humane killing of a chicken. The ceremony takes place during the holiest days of the Jewish calendar.

“Today’s decision is a tremendous victory for our clients and the Orthodox Jewish community in New York,” said Jason Levine, the Vinson & Elkins partner who led his firm’s work on the brief.

Download a copy of this press release here.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.


News Release – 3/13/18

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