FJI Seeks to Vindicate Religious Rights By Ensuring Incarcerated Muslims Receive Halaal Meals

Back in 2007, FJI filed a lawsuit on behalf of several incarcerated Muslims who sought a halaal meal to comply with their religious dietary requirements.  The FDOC refused to provide a halaal meal, even though they were providing kosher meals to Jewish inmates. The FDOC eventually decided, in the middle of the case, to eliminate all kosher and halaal meals and simply provide a vegan option.  Thus, FJI agreed to dismiss the case.  Six years later, without notifying us, and after being prodded by the Department of Justice, the FDOC decided to begin to provide a small number of inmates with kosher meals.  The DOJ was not satisfied, and filed suit against the FDOC for violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act (RLUIPA), which prohibits prisons from substantially burdening inmates’ religious exercises unless it is to further a compelling government interest, and it is the least restrictive means of doing so. Concerned that the case could adversely affect our Muslim clients’ ability to get a halaal meal, we filed a Motion to Intervene in that case to ensure that our clients’ rights are protected.  The case is ongoing.

UPDATE: The court has granted the DOJ’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction, concluding that the FDOC’s failure to provide a kosher meal violates RLUIPA, and ordering the FDOC to phase in a kosher meal program without some of the burdensome “sincerity tests” that the FDOC had proposed to include.  The final trial on the merits is scheduled for late 2014.

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