A federal court judge issued a temporary restraining order banning a Southern California synagogue from carrying out a Yom Kippur-Rosh Hashanah ceremony involving the slaughter of a chicken.
U.S. District Judge Andre Birrote Jr. granted the order Friday after Virginia-based Universal Poultry Concerns sued to stop Chabad Irvine of Orange County from carrying out the Kapparot ceremony with a live chicken.
The Orange County Register reported that Birrote scheduled a hearing on the matter for Thursday.
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A call Saturday to Chabad Irvine was answered by a recording.
The 2,000-year-old ceremony, which means atonement in Hebrew, is practiced in some traditional Orthodox Jewish communities between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which ends on Wednesday this year.
It involves swinging a chicken over a person's head before slaughtering the bird kosher style.
Universal Poultry Concerns argues in its lawsuit that Chabad Irvine is violating California law prohibiting intentional and malicious killing of an animal not used for food.
Chickens used in the ceremony were once given to the poor but are now generally disposed of because of health concerns.
One of Universal Poultry Concerns' attorneys, Bryan Pease of San Diego, told the Register his group is considering going after other Jewish groups that also use live chickens during Kapparot.
"This is a first step in the ultimate goal to show that it is illegal in the state of California and most other states to intentionally kill an animal as punishment for your sins," he said.
Religious leaders maintain the chickens are slaughtered humanely and that efforts to ban the practice violate religious freedom.