Sunday, May 19, 2013

Orthodox Jewish prisoner's lawsuit for kosher food reinstated 

The lawsuit of a Florida Orthodox Jewish prison inmate to get kosher food that had been dismissed has now been reinstated, court records showed.

The Eleventh Circuit appellate court last week put Bruce Rich, who has been serving a life sentence since a Miami-Dade County jury found him guilty in 1999 of shooting to death his parents and who filed suit in 2010 alleging the denial of a kosher diet violated his federal rights, a step closer to getting kosher food for himself and hundreds of Florida inmates who likewise require kosher food, the Miami Herald reported Saturday.

The U.S. Department of Justice also filed suit in Miami federal court last year against the Union Correctional Institution in North Florida for the same violation.

When a federal district court last year dismissed the suit, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an appeal on Rich's behalf and got the case returned to the trial court level, the Herald reported.

Luke Goodrich of the Becket Fund said the denial of kosher food forces Rich to choose between his religious practice and adequate nutrition."

Eighteen organizations filed 18 organizations -- including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Evangelicals, the American Jewish Committee, the Miami Beach-based Aleph Institute, the Rabbinical Council of America, and the Hindu American Foundation -- filed five friend-of-the-court briefs in an attempt to have Florida join the 35 states that provide kosher meals to inmates who say they require them, the newspaper reported.

Florida's current policy on kosher food for prisoners is "in my opinion, embarrassing, since Florida has the second or third largest Jewish population in the country and is supposedly respectful of religious things,'' said Rabbi Menachem M. Katz, head of a prison mission for the Aleph Institute, a Lubavich Chabad social-services group in Bal Harbour.


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