(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 2/20/2014) — The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) today welcomed the settlement of a lawsuit against the St. Clair County Sheriff to modify the religious dietary screening process at the county jail.
The lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of the jail's religious dietary screening process after Aaron Utley, a former inmate at the jail, was denied a halal (Islamically permissible) diet request.
The policy required inmates of different faith backgrounds, including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity, to pass a detailed test written by the jail that judged their knowledge of scripture in order to receive a religious diet. Utley was denied a halal food diet after receiving a “failing” grade on the Islam “test.”
CAIR-MI: Consent Decree and Settlement
The new policy that went into effect today eliminates the religious “test” and requires the jail to instead allow inmates requesting a religious diet to provide letters attesting to their faith by members of clergy and offer other evidence supporting the sincerity of their religious beliefs. It also allows the inmates an opportunity to explain the sincerity of their belief in their own words.
“We welcome the jail's decision to modify the religious dietary screening policy to one that does not violate the constitutional rights of inmates of all faith backgrounds requesting a religious diet,” said CAIR-MI Staff Attorney Lena Masri.
Shereef Akeel, Esq. of Akeel and Valentine, PLC, is co-counsel on the lawsuit.
CAIR-MI has also filed a lawsuit on behalf of several Muslim inmates against the Michigan Department of Corrections for the denial of an adequate diet during the yearly month-long fast of Ramadan.
The Florida chapter of CAIR recently welcomed a court ruling that kosher meals must be served to Jewish prison inmatesÂ and called on the state's Department of Corrections to extend this decision by serving halal food to Muslim inmates.Â
CAIR offers an educational booklet, called “A Correctional Institution's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” to help correctional officers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
– END –
CONTACT: CAIR-MI Staff Attorney Lena Masri, 248-390-9784, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, 248-842-1418, email@example.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ