Religious beliefs: Moussazadeh was transferred to the Mark W Stiles Unit in Beaumont, Texas, which does not provide free kosher meals for inmates

An Orthodox Jew who was jailed for murder has  won the right to be served kosher meals in prison.

A federal appeals court ruled that Max  Moussazadeh, who was sentenced in connection with a fatal shooting in Texas,  U.S. in 1993, should not be denied free kosher meals because to do so would  infringe upon his ‘sincere religious beliefs’.

Moussazadeh, now 35, who initially sued in  2005 after the state denied his request for a kosher meal plan, had said at the  time he feared he would be ‘punished by God’ for not practising his religion  correctly.

A lower, district court dismissed the  inmate’s case and ruled that his commitment to a kosher diet was insincere,  according to the Houston  Chronicle.

Religious beliefs: Moussazadeh was transferred to the Mark W Stiles Unit in Beaumont, Texas, which does not provide free kosher meals for inmates

That judgement has now been reversed by the  ruling of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which said that the  state of Texas was infringing upon the prisoner’s beliefs by failing to provide  him with food in keeping with his religion

Moussazadeh’s argument was based around the  2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalised Persons Act, which prevents the government from restricting the religious  rights of an institutionalised person, the report said.

The inmate, who was jailed after acting as a  lookout while three accomplices shot a man to death during a Houston robbery in  1993, was transferred to a facility in the Stringfellow Unit in Rosharon, Texas,  in 2007, which had established a ‘kosher kitchen’ to cater to Jewish  prisoners.

But he was then moved to the Stiles Unit in  Beaumont, Texas, which offers basic kosher products for inmates to purchase but  does not provide free kosher meals.

Lawyers representing the Texas  Department  of Criminal Justice had argued that Moussazadeh sometimes  chose to queue for a  regular meal while he was a prisoner at the  Stringfellow Unit, even when he had  the option for a kosher meal.

Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel  for  the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which helped to represent  Moussazadeh in  his legal battle, has described the decision as a ‘great victory’ for human  rights and religious liberty.

‘Even prisoners retain their human  rights,  and the state cannot sacrifice those rights on the altar of  bureaucratic  convenience,’ Mr Goodrich said.

A kosher diet is based on Jewish teachings  and forbids certain foods including pork, some seafood, and mixing of dairy and  meat products.

In order to remain kosher, a meal must be  prepared in containers that are untainted by non-kosher food.

The prison system in Texas provides inmates  with a choice between pork-free, meat-free and regular trays at most units -  none of which would be regarded as kosher.

Source: The Daily Mail


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