A Florida county is being sued in federal court for allegedly not providing faith-based meals to Muslim prisoners.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed the lawsuit Thursday, saying four Muslim inmates are being singled out because the Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department has refused to serve them Halal meals, local Miami ABC-10 News reported.
“Just because individuals are being detained in jail doesn’t mean that the county can unilaterally strip them of their First Amendment right to practice their faith,” said Shalini Goel Agarwal, staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida.
“Where the county offers faith-based meals to inmates of other faiths, it should not deny these meals to Muslim inmates just by professing ignorance of Islam — especially when the inmates themselves and Muslim organizations have made clear the requirements of their faith.”
According to Channel 10, the Muslim inmates were fed kosher meals until October 2014. Then the option was purportedly pulled from them while other inmates still got kosher meals on request.
Corrections officials told Channel 10 that before the lawsuit was filed, an imam signed off on the menu changes, saying they were acceptable.
“The law is clear. The right to practice your religion without government interference is a fundamental right guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” said Thania Diaz Clevenger, civil rights director at CAIR Florida.
“The county’s excuses for their unlawful discrimination and refusal to provide a proper religious diet to the Muslim inmates are completely without merit. You shouldn’t have to choose between starving yourself and practicing your religion.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
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