Prisoners Win Fight To Eat Cheesecake On Religious Holiday
A federal court ruling has allowed prisoners in Michigan to eat holiday cheesecake if they practice Judaism.
After not being allowed kosher meat or dairy during certain holidays by the Michigan Department of Corrections, prisoners Gerald Ackerman and Mark Shaykin filed a lawsuit in 2013.
The court ruling took place on October 12 this year, and saw Circuit Court Judge Baylor Nalbandian take the prisoner’s religious beliefs into consideration surrounding four Jewish holidays and the Jewish Sabbath, one of which required them to eat cheesecake.
In the opinion of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Nalbandian wrote the prisoners’ ‘religious beliefs require them to eat a meal with kosher meat and a meal with dairy on the Jewish Sabbath and four Jewish holidays’, alongside eating ‘cheesecake on the holiday of Shavuot to celebrate the holiday properly’, M Live reports.
Kosher meat complies with a strict set of rules in Judaism, from how the animal is killed to what the animal has previously eaten.
Spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections, Chris Gautz, said the facility had previously complied with other religious beliefs and practices, such as aiding Muslims fasting for Ramadan, by providing them with ‘fasting bags’.
The 2019 one-day trial resulted in US District Judge Linda Parker ordering the facility to submit an agreement to comply with the Jewish prisoners’ requests, and thus allow them kosher meat and dairy on certain religious days. On the basis of it being a celebratory ritual, it also confirmed that cheesecake would be given to the prisoners on Shavuot.
According to attorney Dan Manville, who represented the Jewish prisoners, the agreed settlement was appealed after two years by the Michigan Department of Corrections.
The correctional facility argued that the two prisoners often bought ‘hygiene products, popcorn, and coffee’ rather than ‘meat and dairy products from the commissary’, which made it question the extent of the plaintiffs’ religious devotion.
We technically got everything, but the MDOC being their usual sick self, rather than giving them regular cheesecake, what they’re giving them is a non-dairy pudding without the Graham cracker crust.
Now, on Saturday, the Jewish inmates – not the Muslims or anybody else like that – they can not get their milk, but Jewish inmates can. And at dinnertime, they will feed them chicken bologna.
Ackerman and Shaykin denied the accusations against their devotion, and commented on how commissary items were not allowed during meal times and so buying meat or dairy products from the store would not have worked in line with their religious obligations.
Up until 2013, kosher meals had been provided to Jewish prisoners, however they were removed and alternatives were put in the commissary.
The facility’s defence was also called ‘unpersuasive’ by the courts, according to spokesperson Gautz.
It was resolved that every Saturday, on the Jewish sabbath and on the four holidays, including Shavuot, prisoners practising Judaism would be supplied kosher meat.
Guatz concluded that the facility would ‘certainly’ adhere to the ruling, however noted that it would face difficulties with other inmates claiming to be religious, in the hopes of trying to get more food.
Subsequently, any inmate who wants the Jewish diet is required to have taken part in a kosher meal plan for a previous 60 days, according to the agreement of the settlement.
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