In 2013 the ACLU of Michigan won a class action lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) on behalf of Muslim prisoners whose meals did not comply with the halal requirements of Islam. Soon after this important religious freedom victory for Muslim prisoners, we learned that MDOC had stopped ordering pre-packaged kosher meals for Jewish prisoners. Instead, it adopted a “one size fits all” vegan diet that it claimed met the religious requirements of all religions. However, the vegan food was prepared in the same kitchen as non-kosher food and is served using the same utensils that are used for non-kosher food, which violates kosher laws against cross-contamination. In 2016 the ACLU of Michigan and the MSU Civil Rights Clinic agreed to represent a Jewish prisoner who was challenging the denial of a kosher diet as a violation of his religious freedom. In 2018 Judge Linda Parker denied MDOC’s motion to dismiss, and in January 2020 approved a settlement agreement in which MDOC is required to provide certified kosher meals to Jewish prisoners who request them. Additional disputes have arisen regarding MDOC’s compliance with the settlement agreement, but in March 2021 the court denied further relief. (Dowdy-El v. Caruso; Ackerman v. Washington; ACLU Attorney Dan Korobkin; Cooperating Attorney Daniel Quick of Dickinson Wright; co-counsel Daniel Manville of the MSU Civil Rights Clinic.)
The Michigan Legislature is in session.