Michigan inmates win right to kosher meat, cheesecake

Michigan must serve kosher meat, dairy, and cheesecake to prisoners observing the Jewish Sabbath and holidays, a federal appeals court said, rejecting arguments that a special menu would be too costly and disruptive.

The Corrections Department typically offers a vegan meal to anyone with religious dietary needs. But the appeals court said it was a "substantial burden" on the rights of prisoners who said they instead need meat and dairy to practice their Jewish faith.

In a 3-0 opinion this week, the appeals court affirmed a decision by U.S. District Judge Linda Parker. The court analyzed the case under a federal law that protects the exercise of religion in a confined setting.

Gerald Ackerman and Mark Shaykin sued after the state in 2013 adopted a vegan religious meal and said Jewish organizations could no longer send food for four holidays.

Prisoners can purchase small kosher meat and dairy products at the commissary, but the food can’t be brought into the chow hall. Ackerman and Shaykin said they must eat the special food as meals, not snacks.