On January 3, 2013, Muslim prisoners filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The plaintiffs sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons for failing to provide certified halal meals to the prisoners. Represented by private counsel, the plaintiffs alleged that the ...
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On January 3, 2013, Muslim prisoners filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The plaintiffs sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons for failing to provide certified halal meals to the prisoners. Represented by private counsel, the plaintiffs alleged that the failure to provide a halal-certified diet was a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and a violation of the Equal Protection Guarantee under the Fifth Amendment. This action was brought pursuant to RFRA, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(c).
The prisoners' Religious Diet Program provided kosher meals, however the meat in kosher meals was not slaughtered according to Islamic law, and furthermore had the tendency to be contaminated by alcohol and other product forbidden under Islamic law. Prisoners were also offered a "no-pork" or "no-flesh" alternative meal plan, however these too were susceptible to contamination by products forbidden under Islamic law. Prisoners had the option of purchasing food through the Commissary, however there were very few halal-certified products, and prisoners were unable to afford such products. As a result, the prisoners had to violate their religion in order to survive.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons' Religious Diet Program originated in a 1980 lawsuit filed by Muslim inmates seeking access to halal meals. In response to that suit, in 1984 the BOP voluntarily instituted the Modified Common Fare Religious Diet Program, which would be free of pork and pork derivatives, free of contamination, and would include at least three hot entrees a week to accommodate the religious diet needs of the Muslim and Jewish inmates. Al Shakir v. Carlson, 605 F. Supp. 374, 375 (M.D. Penn. 1984). Although some halal meals were served at different facilities after 1984, at some point the Federal Bureau of Prisons abandoned the Modified Common Fare Religious Diet Program in favor of a Religious Diet Program called the Certified Processed Foods Program, which consisted of individual sealed trays of pre-prepared kosher-certified meals. The Religious Diet Program meals were not certified as halal.
The plaintiffs allege that the defendant's failure to provide the plaintiffs with meals that conformed to their religious beliefs placed a substantial burden on their religious exercise, a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which did not further a compelling government interest. The plaintiffs also alleged that the defendant's failure to provide them with halal meals violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fifth Amendment.
The plaintiffs ask for declaratory relief and an injunction requiring that the defendant provide the plaintiffs with a halal-certified diet that conformed to their religious beliefs. They also asked for attorney's fees.
As of February 22, 2016, the parties were in the middle of discovery, which would conclude in September 2016. Rachel June-Graber - 02/22/2016