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Florida Appeals Ruling on Kosher Prison Meals

— The state of Florida asked a federal court of appeals to reverse the mandated kosher meals program they say drains their budget.

The state is appealing a 2015 decision by a Miami judge requiring kosher food for anyone who requests it, including Jews, Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists and people of other faiths, accounting for about 10,000 — or 10 percent — of all inmates.

The kosher meals program is estimated to cost the Florida Department of Corrections $12.3 million a year, claimed the attorney representing the state, the Associated Press [reported](http://The state of Florida asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to allow it to discontinue a kosher meals program for thousands of religiously observant prison inmates in the event that chronic budget problems worsen and other costs take priority. Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/news/state/florida/article89033807.html#storylink=cpy “”).

The state wants the flexibility to pivot money away from the kosher program if necessary.

Prison officials are concerned that if chronic budget problems worsen, the expense of the kosher meals could prohibit funding for critical issues such as prison security, deteriorating buildings, transportation, and medical bills, state’s attorney Kuhlman Tieteg told the court Tuesday.

“It should be a policy decision if there is a substantial cost,” Tieteg said. “We have a substantial, compelling interest in cost savings.”

Justice Department attorney Christopher Wang countered that budgetary issues are not a compelling reason to drop a federally required kosher program that 35 other states implement without complaint.

“The budget deficit in and of itself is not sufficient,” he said. Other states “are doing it. They haven’t had this parade of horribles.”

A ruling from the Federal Court of Appeals is expected to come down in the next few months.

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