A federal judge says an Ohio prison that forces all inmates to adhere to a strict Islamic diet is not an establishment of religion because everyone eats the same food.
A federal judge recently threw out prisoner James Rivers’ lawsuit against Ohio Prison director Gary Mohr’s decision to ban pork from kitchens in all prisons under control of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Mohr made the decision to stop serving pork products after a Muslim on death row filed a lawsuit against the prison system.
Abdul Awkal, an inmate on death row, argued in his lawsuit that the prison’s failure to provide halal meals violated his religious freedoms.
Despite Awkal’s claims, Islamic teaching says it is perfectly acceptable to eat non-halal meat if there is no halal food available.
Islam teaches that meat such as pork is considered unclean and not to be eaten. This would include all pork products including sausage and bacon.
Awkal was later joined by a second Muslim who is not on death row. Prison authorities had argued that they provided non-pork and vegetarian options for Muslims. The Muslims said that was not good enough and still insisted that the food they were given meet halal standards.
Despite Awkal’s claims that eating halal meat is a requirement of his faith, Islamic teaching says it is perfectly acceptable to eat non-halal meat if there is no halal food available.
Prison authorities had argued that providing halal meet for the thousands of Muslims in prison would bankrupt the system.
In response to the lawsuit, prison officials stopped serving pork products to everyone; including atheists and those whose religion contains no such prohibition.
Former Navy chaplain Dr. Gordon Klingenschmitt says while the judge ruled it is acceptable to force all non-Muslims to adhere to a Muslim diet, Christians have no dietary rights.
“This is another example of the Islamicization [sic] of America. It’s establishing Islam as the state religion of the prison system,” Klingenschmitt contends. “The judge’s reasoning is this: He said as long as all of the prisoners are forced to eat the same food, then there’s no discrimination taking place. In other words, if he enforces Muslim law equally, then there’s no establishment of religion. I think that’s wrong, and I pray this is overturned on the appeal.”