Arizona prison officials need to show a real hardship if they want to deny halal meals to a Muslim inmate, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.
In a unanimous ruling, the judges overturned a lower court decision which accepted the claims of the state Department of Corrections that providing the meals to Amin Shakur would create additional costs and administrative burdens. The appellate judges said there was no evidence that the state actually looked into the real cost.
The judges also noted that the state already provides two kinds of kosher meals for Jewish inmates. That, they said, not only raises questions about whether the state is has a reason for its disparate treatment between Jewish and Muslim prisoners but also casts "substantial doubt'' on the state's claims that accommodating Shakur and other Muslim inmates would result in significant problems.
Wednesday's ruling sends the case back to U.S. District Court Judge Paul Rosenblatt, who initially threw out Shakur's lawsuit. (MORE)