Court Rules: Texas Jewish Inmate Should Be Served Kosher Food
A Jewish man imprisoned for murder in Texas should be served kosher meals, a federal appeals court ruled.
Max Moussazadeh, 35, who is serving a 75-year sentence for a 1993 murder, has a sincere religious belief as an Orthodox Jew in keeping a kosher diet, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled, reversing a lower court's judgment.
Texas infringed upon his beliefs by denying him free kosher meals, according to court records filed on Dec. 21.
Moussazadeh allegedly served as a lookout while his three co-defendants shot a man to death during a Houston robbery.
He is serving time in the Stiles Unit in Beaumont, which does not provide free kosher meals, his attorneys said, The Houston Chronicle reported.
In 2005, Moussazadeh sued after the state denied his request for a kosher meal plan to accommodate his religious beliefs.
However, the prison system argued that his commitment to a kosher diet was insincere, as he had reportedly purchased food in the past without kosher supervision.
His case centers around the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which forbids the government from restricting religious rights of an institutionalized person.
"I feel that I am going against my beliefs and that I will be punished by God for not practicing my religion correctly," he wrote in the 2005 complaint, as quoted by The Chronicle.
Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which assisted in Moussazadeh’s legal representation, described the decision as a “great victory” for human rights and religious liberty, The Daily Mail reported.
“Even prisoners retain their human rights, and the state cannot sacrifice those rights on the altar of bureaucratic convenience,” Goodrich said.