CHICAGO, April 18, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC is urging an appellate court to compel the state of Indiana to comply with federal law and serve kosher meals to Jewish prison inmates who request them. The Indiana Department of Corrections offers vegetarian and halal meals but has refused to provide kosher meals on the premise they are too costly.
"Without any expertise in Kashrut, the Indiana Department of Corrections has decided it is an authority on what is kosher," said Dan Elbaum, director of AJC Chicago. "Providing Orthodox Jewish prisoners with non-kosher vegan food is insulting, and substantially burdens the rights of inmates in Indiana's prison system."
AJC filed today an amicus brief to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Maston Willis v. Commission, Indiana Department of Corrections in support of an Orthodox Jewish inmate who has been denied kosher food. The landmark Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act compels states to accommodate reasonable religious requests from prison inmates.
The lower court held that Indiana had not justified the failure to provide kosher food. It noted that the state's own expert agreed the alternative diet it offered was not kosher and that the state had not made a serious effort to find cheap kosher food.
AJC, founded in 1906, is one of America's foremost defenders of religious liberty. Joining in AJC amicus brief, prepared by the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, were the Indianapolis JCRC and ADL.