The National Association of Evangelicals joined an amici curiae brief in Rich v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, urging Florida to comply with the Religious Land Use and Incarcerated Persons Act (RLUIPA), which Congress unanimously passed in 2000. RLUIPA requires states to accommodate reasonable religious requests from prison inmates.
A state may avoid RLUIPA’s requirements by not taking federal funding for prisons, or by demonstrating it has a compelling interest, such as prison security, that justifies a denial of a specific prisoner’s religious request. In this case, prison officials claimed that providing kosher meals to Jewish prisoners was too costly and would jeopardize security.
The brief, which was also joined by Prison Fellowship Ministries and the Christian Legal Society, argues that prison officials failed to demonstrate any compelling interest that would justify forcing observant Jews to eat non-kosher meals, particularly considering that the prison receives federal funding to accommodate prisoners’ religious needs.
The brief also warns that diluting the strict scrutiny standard in this case would adversely affect protection of religious freedom in other contexts where the government is held to the same standard.