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 inmates, we learned that MDOC had stopped ordering pre-packaged kosher meals for Jewish inmates. Instead, it adopted a “one size fits all” vegan diet that it claimed met the religious requirements of all religions.
However, the vegan food is prepared in the same kitchen as non-kosher food and is served using the same utensils that are used for non-kosher food. This “cross-contamination” violates kosher laws.
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 March 2018, Judge Linda Parker denied MDOC’s motion to dismiss and in August 2018 granted the prisoners’ motion for class certification.
(Dowdy-El v. Caruso; Arnold v. Heyns; ACLU Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg; Cooperating Attorney Daniel Quick of Dickinson Wright; MSU Civil Rights Clinic Director Daniel Manville.)
Read Nov. 21, 2013 article on settlement in Dowdy-El v. Caruso: ACLU, Michigan Corrections Settles Religious Freedom Lawsuit
Read case background on Dowdy-El v. Caruso.
Read our Fall 2018 Legal Docket.