In Ackerman v. Washington, (6th Cir., Oct. 12, 2021), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Michigan Department of Corrections universal religious meal plan is inadequate to meet the religious needs of Jewish prisoners. The court summarized its holding:
The Michigan Department of Corrections serves a universal religious diet to all prisoners with religious dietary needs. It created this meal plan to avoid forcing prisoners to eat foods that violate their sincere religious beliefs. And because some religious beliefs forbid eating animal products, the universal religious meals are vegan. Because other prisoners require kosher food, the vegan meal is also kosher.
Gerald Ackerman and Mark Shaykin are Jewish prisoners confined in MDOC facilities. Their religious beliefs require them to eat a meal with kosher meat and a meal with dairy on the Jewish Sabbath and four Jewish holidays. They also believe that they must eat cheesecake on the holiday of Shavuot to celebrate the holiday properly. So they claim that MDOC policies that force them to eat vegan meals on these days substantially burden their sincere religious beliefs. And they argue that the MDOC needs to accommodate their beliefs under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). We agree and affirm the district court’s judgment in the prisoners’ favor.
Law & Crime reports on the decision.