Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Washington District Court Grants Preliminary Injunction for Kosher Meals

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington has ordered a preliminary injunction (PI) granting a state prisoner kosher meals in accordance with tenets of Orthodox Judaism.

Roland Pitre is a state prisoner at Airway Heights Correctional Center (AHCC) in Washington. Though not of Jewish descent, nor a convert to Judaism, Pitre sincerely believes in and practices Orthodox Judaism, and has been doing so since March 28, 1999, when he informed AHCC officials of his beliefs and requested kosher meals.

AHCC initially approved, then revoked, Pitre's request for a kosher diet. AHCC officials rejected the request because Pitre was not racially Jewish nor a formal convert to Judaism. Pitre repeatedly asked AHCC officials for kosher meals and was denied. He lost 25 pounds while seeking administrative remedies because the AHCC general population diet is not kosher.

Pitre filed suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 claiming that AHCC officials violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He then moved for a PI to compel AHCC to provide him with a kosher diet while the action was pending. AHCC argued that a PI should not issue because Pitre was unlikely to prevail on the claims' merits and had proved no irreparable harm.

The court analyzed the PI under the standard test. The court noted that it is well-established that a kosher diet is mandatory for Orthodox Jews. Contrary to AHCC's assertion that Pitre must be racially Jewish or a Jewish convert to receive kosher meals, the court held that "[t]he proper inquiry is ... whether his beliefs are sincerely held." The court found that not only had Pitre stated his religious preference and tried to convert formally to Judaism, but he also regularly participates in Jewish services and ceremonies in the prison's Jewish community.

The court held that the prison violated equal protection because a non-practicing racial Jew could receive kosher meals but a non-Jew practicing Judaism could not. Further, AHCC provided kosher meals to its Jewish population already. The racial discrimination was held not a legitimate state interest.

The court found that all factors in Turner v. Safley , 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987), weighed against AHCC. The court held the violations of Pitre's constitutional rights were not legitimate and that denial of kosher meals clearly and irreparably harmed Pitre.

The court ordered AHCC to begin providing Pitre with kosher meals immediately and for the duration of the litigation. This is an unpublished ruling. See: Pitre v. Bon , Case No. CS-02-0004-WFN (E.D. Wa. 2002) .

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Pitre v. Bon