An Orthodox Jew who was jailed for murder hasÂ won the right to be served kosher meals in prison.
A federal appeals court ruled that MaxÂ Moussazadeh, who was sentenced in connection with a fatal shooting in Texas,Â U.S. in 1993, should not be denied free kosher meals because to do so wouldÂ infringe upon his ‘sincere religious beliefs’.
Moussazadeh, now 35, who initially sued inÂ 2005 after the state denied his request for a kosher meal plan, had said at theÂ time he feared he would be ‘punished by God’ for not practising his religionÂ correctly.
A lower, district court dismissed theÂ inmate’s case and ruled that his commitment to a kosher diet was insincere,Â according to the HoustonÂ Chronicle.
That judgement has now been reversed by theÂ ruling of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which said that theÂ state of Texas was infringing upon the prisoner’s beliefs by failing to provideÂ him with food in keeping with his religion
Moussazadeh’s argument was based around theÂ 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalised Persons Act, which prevents the government from restricting the religiousÂ rights of an institutionalised person, the report said.
The inmate, who was jailed after acting as aÂ lookout while three accomplices shot a man to death during a Houston robbery inÂ 1993, was transferred to a facility in the Stringfellow Unit in Rosharon, Texas,Â in 2007, which had established a ‘kosher kitchen’ to cater to JewishÂ prisoners.
But he was then moved to the Stiles Unit inÂ Beaumont, Texas, which offers basic kosher products for inmates to purchase butÂ does not provide free kosher meals.
Lawyers representing the TexasÂ DepartmentÂ of Criminal Justice had argued that Moussazadeh sometimesÂ chose to queue for aÂ regular meal while he was a prisoner at theÂ Stringfellow Unit, even when he hadÂ the option for a kosher meal.
Luke Goodrich, deputy general counselÂ forÂ the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which helped to representÂ Moussazadeh inÂ his legal battle, has described the decision as a ‘great victory’ for humanÂ rights and religious liberty.
‘Even prisoners retain their humanÂ rights,Â and the state cannot sacrifice those rights on the altar ofÂ bureaucraticÂ convenience,’ Mr Goodrich said.
A kosher diet is based on Jewish teachingsÂ and forbids certain foods including pork, some seafood, and mixing of dairy andÂ meat products.
In order to remain kosher, a meal must beÂ prepared in containers that are untainted by non-kosher food.
The prison system in Texas provides inmatesÂ with a choice between pork-free, meat-free and regular trays at most units -Â none of which would be regarded as kosher.
Source: The Daily Mail