In Indiana, prison authorities are refusing to serve kosher meals to Jewish inmates on the premise that it is too costly. The NAE joined Prison Fellowship, the Christian Legal Society and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty in an amici brief urging Indiana to comply with the Religious Land Use and Incarcerated Persons Act (RLUIPA), which was passed in 2000 to compel states to accommodate reasonable religious requests from prison inmates, among other religious freedom issues.
In Willis v. Indiana Department of Corrections, the appellants claim that if a religious accommodation costs money, then it should not be required, particularly in fiscally difficult times. However, no “hard times” exception exists in RLUIPA. Instead the statute says that sincerely held religious beliefs should be accommodated in the prison setting except for in particular situations approved through the most stringent standard of judicial review. The brief argues that Supreme Court precedent establishes that “saving money” cannot be considered a “compelling state interest” overriding the protection of religious freedom.