Miami federal judge: State violating law by not serving kosher meals to prisoners

The Miami federal court ruled Thursday that the Florida Department of Corrections’ failure to provide a kosher diet to prisoners violated federal law protecting their religious rights.

“Religious freedom is a cornerstone of our pluralistic society,’’ said Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

The Justice Department had sued the Florida Corrections Department, saying it violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. The law prohibits the government from imposing a “substantial burden’’ on an inmate’s religious rights.

When the litigation began in 2012, the Department of Corrections had one pilot kosher diet program in South Florida that served from eight to 18 prisoners. The state has argued that providing kosher meals would be very expensive and could lead to a security breach because inmates would have to be transferred to facilities with kosher kitchens.

U.S. District Court Judge Patricia Seitz gave both parties until 10 a.m. May 6 to come up with a joint final judgment.