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2014-02-14 digital edition

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February 14, 2014  RSS feed
World News

Text: T T T

Orthodox inmate drops suit after ruling requiring state to offer kosher meals

An Orthodox Jewish prison inmate has ended his four-year-old lawsuit seeking a kosher diet, due to a recent court ruling requiring Florida to provide all Jewish prison inmates with a kosher diet.

“This is a major victory for religious freedom,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Florida is finally being ordered to join 35 other states and the federal government in protecting the rights of Jewish prisoners.”

Bruce Rich was born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish household. Since his incarceration, the Florida Department of Corrections denied him a kosher diet, citing alleged cost and security concerns.

The Becket Fund, which represented Rich, argued the denial of a kosher diet violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act because it forces him to choose between his religious practice and adequate nutrition.

In May 2013, Rich won a victory in state appeal’s court, which noted, at least 35 states and the federal government currently provide kosher diets without problems of cost or security. In light of this evidence, the court held that the Department of Corrections made only “meager efforts to explain why Florida’s prisons are so different from the penal institutions that now provide kosher meals such that the plans adopted by those other institutions would not work in Florida.”

After Rich filed his lawsuit, the U.S. Justice Department filed a parallel lawsuit making the same claims against Florida. In response to the lawsuit, on Dec. 6, a federal court ordered Florida to begin providing a kosher diet to all Jewish inmates in the state no later than July 1.

In response to this ruling, Rich voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit, effective Feb. 10.

“It’s too bad that it took multiple lawsuits for Florida to do what it should be doing anyway – allow Jewish prisoners to follow Judaism,” added Goodrich. “Prisons should not be faith-free zones.”

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