Located in Irvine, California, Chabad of Irvine is deeply committed to serving the local Jewish community. The synagogue has served the area since 1979, offering ministries like counseling, hospital visitations, clubs for young children and adults, religious education and more.
Every year in preparation for Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Chabad of Irvine follows Jewish tradition and performs the kaporos ceremony, where the atonement of sins is contemplated through prayer and the kosher killing of a chicken, reminding participants of their own mortality.
Such 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.
On September 29, 2016, the Maryland-based animal rights organization United Poultry Concerns (UPC) filed a lawsuit against Chabad of Irvine in an attempt to stop the synagogue from performing the kaporos ceremony.
Days later on October 7, a California federal district court issued an ex parte Temporary Restraining Order that banned Chabad of Irvine from holding their kaporos services. The Court set a hearing date for October 13. Yom Kippur ended on October 12, 2016.
First Liberty Institute appeared as Chabad of Irvine’s legal representation on October 11, 2016, filing a brief with the federal district court on behalf of the synagogue. Read the brief.
“This drastic judicial measure has prevented people in the Jewish community from fully exercising their faith on Yom Kippur,” said Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for First Liberty. “We cannot allow a special interest group to trample on the religious rights of the Orthodox Jewish community.”
In the brief, First Liberty and synagogue leaders ask the court to lift the Temporary Restraining Order and allow members of Chabad of Irvine to practice their faith during Yom Kippur.
Less than three hours prior to the start of Yom Kippur, First Liberty and its volunteer attorneys with the international law firm of WilmerHale appeared on behalf of Chabad of Irvine before a federal district judge, asking the judge to lift the Temporary Restraining Order. After a lengthy argument, and with less than twenty minutes before the start of Yom Kippur, the judge lifted the order, freeing Chabad of Irvine to perform the kaporos ritual.
“Since being retained by Chabad of Irvine on Monday evening, our legal team has literally worked around the clock to preserve the free exercise of this Jewish community,” said Hiram Sasser. “This is a significant victory for people of all religious beliefs.”
On May 12, 2017, a U.S. District Court judge granted a legal victory to the Chabad of Irvine, dismissing the lawsuit brought against the synagogue. Read the full order here.
“We are overjoyed that the judge saw the wisdom of protecting our ability to practice a cherished tradition of our faith,” Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum, the rabbi of the Chabad of Irvine, said. “We hope this victory will encourage everyone to live in peace and tolerance of everyone’s religious beliefs.”
“No one should attack a synagogue for peacefully practicing a tradition they’ve observed for over 1,000 years.” Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for First Liberty Institute and co-counsel for the synagogue, said. “This is a great victory, not only for the synagogue, but for all Americans who value our constitutional freedoms.”
First Liberty also defended Chabad of Irvine on June 20, 2017 from a state-level lawsuit. On June 23, 2017, a California state court rejected an animal rights organization’s challenge to the synagogue’s religious practices. Read the decision here.
“Targeted attacks on a religious sect should be rejected by every American,” Stephanie Taub, First Liberty Counsel said. “Protecting a millennia-old religious tradition is a victory, not just for the Chabad of Irvine, but for all Californians.”
Had the lawsuit been successful, the synagogue’s religious ceremony would have been declared a “business practice,” putting at risk the religious practices of every mosque, church, temple, synagogue, or house of worship.
On May 15, 2017, United Poultry Concerns (UPC) filed for an appeal on the dismissal of the District Court case.
On September 14, 2017, another attempt to halt the religious ceremony was denied when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the activists’ motion for an injunction pending appeal. This was the third time in less than 12 months that attorneys with First Liberty Institute have protected Chabad of Irvine’s right to freely exercise its faith, but that didn’t stop the activists, who continued to file federal appeals.
Finally, on November 20, 2018, the Ninth Circuit once again dismissed the case against Chabad of Irvine.
“We’re grateful that the Ninth Circuit rejected this effort to ban a thousand-year-old religious tradition,” said Hiram Sasser, General Counsel to First Liberty. “The First Amendment protects the peaceful religious practices of all faiths. The court rightly determined that organizations cannot force the government to interfere with a centuries-old religious practice they find objectionable.
For Immediate Release: 11.20.18
Contact: Lacey McNiel, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ninth Circuit Court Protects Religious Liberty of California Orthodox Jewish Congregation
Animal rights activists had sought to prevent longstanding religious practice
Pasadena, CA—The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today rejected demands by animal rights groups seeking to prevent Orthodox Jewish communities in California from participating in a millennia-old religious ritual known as kaparos. First Liberty Institute and its network attorneys with the law firm WilmerHale recently argued on behalf of the Chabad of Irvine (CA).
“We’re grateful that the Ninth Circuit rejected this effort to ban a thousand-year-old religious tradition,” said Hiram Sasser, General Counsel to First Liberty. “The First Amendment protects the peaceful religious practices of all faiths. The court rightly determined that organizations cannot force the government to interfere with a centuries old religious practice they find objectionable.”
“Today’s decision is a tremendous victory for our clients and the Orthodox Jewish community in California,” said Matthew Martens, the WilmerHale partner who argued on behalf of Chabad of Irvine.
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.
Animal rights activists in California have sought to force government officials to prohibit the ceremony. First Liberty network attorneys argued that it is not the role of the government to tell religious communities how to exercise their religious beliefs.
Last year, First Liberty and network attorneys successfully defended Chabad of Irvine against two lawsuits brought by activists opposed to kaporos.
Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Chabad.
About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.
To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at email@example.com or by calling 972-941-4453.
To download this press release, please click here.