A federal judge has tossed out an animal rights group's lawsuit against a California synagogue that practices the ritual slaughter of chickens.
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Judge Andre Birotte Jr. ruled that Chabad of Irvine doesn't engage in an unfair business practice by charging for the killing and disposal of chickens used in the rite called kapparot or kaporos.
United Poultry Concerns, a Virginia-based group, argued that the $27 fee was well above the actual cost, making it a profit-making venture.
But Birotte said in the ruling Friday that the synagogue "does not participate nor compete as a business in the commercial market by performing a religious atonement ritual that involves donations," the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
The ritual, observed by some Orthodox sects of Judaism, involves whirling a chicken above one's head while reciting a prayer prior to it being slaughtered. The practice is believed to transfer the person's sins to the chicken.
The rite typically is performed before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.
Chickens used in the ceremony were once given to the poor but they are now generally disposed of because of food-handling laws.
"We hope this victory will encourage everyone to live in peace and tolerance of everyone's religious beliefs," Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum of Chabad of Irvine said in a statement.
The ruling is being appealed, said Bryan Pease, an attorney representing United Poultry Concerns.
Pease also is representing another nonprofit group, the Animal Protection and Rescue League, in a state court lawsuit against the synagogue that alleges animal cruelty. The suit is scheduled for trial next month.