Becket Fund, ACLU Hit Florida over Denial of Kosher Food to Jewish Prisoners

http://www.becketfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/westernwallpermission.jpgThe Becket Fund and the ACLU team up to defend religious freedom for all

For Immediate Release: May 28, 2014
Media Contact: Zachary Enos, zenos@becketfund.org, 202.349.7210

Washington D.C. – Today, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) jointly filed a friend-of-the-court brief criticizing the State of Florida for refusing to provide a kosher diet to Jewish prisoners. Florida is the only large prison system in the country that still denies a kosher diet to Jews.

“Prisoners surrender many of their physical rights at the jailhouse door, but they do not surrender the fundamental right of conscience,” said Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Bureaucratic stubbornness should not prevent a small number of prisoners from peacefully following the centuries-old commands of Judaism.”

The Becket Fund has sued Florida over the denial of a kosher diet twice—first in 2002, then in 2012. Both times it received a favorable result on behalf of one observant prisoner. This latest lawsuit was filed by the United States on behalf of all observant prisoners. A federal district court ordered Florida to begin providing a kosher diet for all observant inmates no later than July 1, 2014, and Florida has appealed.

In its appeal, Florida claims that a kosher diet is too expensive to be required by federal law. However, at least thirty-five states and the federal government maintain kosher diets without problems of cost. Moreover, from 2004 to 2007, Florida itself provided a Jewish dietary program that cost only a fraction of one percent of its annual food budget.

“States as diverse as California, New York, and Texas already provide Jewish inmates with kosher food. It is only a matter of time before Florida is required to do the same,” added Goodrich.

In addition to its successful suits against Florida, the Becket Fund has won kosher diet cases against Georgia and Texas, and has assisted in a similar victory against Indiana. The Becket Fund has never lost a case when suing a prison system over the denial of a kosher diet.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. The Becket Fund recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact  Zachary Enos, Assistant Communications Director, at zenos@becketfund.org or call 202.349.7210.

###

Additional Resources: