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Under the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the MDOC must provide kosher meat and dairy products on Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shavuot.

A Federal Appeals Court ruled Oct. 12 that the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) must provide kosher meals to Jewish inmates on certain holidays, the Courthouse News Service reported.

The MDOC had been serving kosher meals to Jewish prisoners since 2019, when the state settled a class-action lawsuit that its vegan meals were not sufficient to be served as “religious meals” for Jewish inmates who kept kosher.

The 2019 settlement didn’t address Jewish inmates’ demands that kosher meat and dairy products be provided on certain Jewish holidays. The MDOC stated that kosher-certified meat and dairy products were available in the prison commissary for those who wanted them. It also stated providing meat and dairy products to holiday meals would be too expensive.

Under the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the MDOC must provide kosher meat and dairy products on Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shavuot.

An appeals panel said the availability of kosher snacks and dairy products from a commissary is insufficient to satisfy federal standards for Jewish inmates that require specific meals on Shabbat and other holidays. 

The panel also said the expected annual cost of $10,000 to satisfy the Jewish inmates’ dietary needs was not a reason to deny the accommodations as it would only represent .02% of its $39 million annual food budget.

The decision held that the MDOC must accommodate the sincerely held beliefs of Jewish inmates under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA.

Thomas Rheaume, plaintiffs’ attorney, said in a statement that the “Sixth Circuit rightly upheld the sincerely held religious beliefs of incarcerated persons.

“The decision paves the way for a class of Jewish prisoners to eat religious meals in accordance with the precepts of their religion as opposed to non-conforming religious meals deemed sufficient by the state,” he said. “The accommodation of religion upheld today by the Sixth Circuit is consistent with RLUIPA’s purpose and should be lauded.”

A spokesperson for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office said it is reviewing the ruling and declined further comment. 

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