August 2, 2012
Florida Faces Lawsuit over Denial of Kosher Food to Jewish Inmates
Becket Fund Appeals to United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an appeal on behalf of Bruce Rich, an Orthodox Jewish prison inmate who has been denied a kosher diet by the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC). The Becket Fund is arguing that denial of kosher food violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000(RLUIPA), because it forces Rich to choose between his religious practice and adequate nutrition.
“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 handful of prisoners from peacefully following the centuries-old commands of Judaism.”
The DOC claims that it is denying a kosher diet in order to control costs and maintain security. However, at least thirty-five states and the federal government currently provide kosher diets without problems of cost or security. Moreover, from 2004 to 2007, the DOC provided a Jewish dietary program that cost only a fraction of one percent of its annual food budget and did not result in any security problems. It cancelled kosher diets in 2007 against the advice of special commission appointed to study the issue.
“If states as diverse as California, New York, and Texas can provide Jewish inmates with kosher food, Florida can do the same. It’s not that difficult,” added Goodrich.
After the Becket Fund filed its opening brief, eighteen different organizations filed five amicus briefs supporting Mr. Rich. The amici represent a broad array of Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and nonreligious groups, including the ACLU, the National Association of Evangelicals, the American Jewish Committee, Aleph Institute, the Rabbinical Council of America, and the Hindu American Foundation.
Florida’s response to the appeal is currently due August 31, 2012. A decision in the case could come later this year.
Case Page (all legal docs, resources, images, news)
Oral Argument Recording (April 18, 2013)