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Landmark Case Protects Religious Freedoms of Muslim Prisoners

PHOTO: A court ruling has upheld the religious rights of the nearly 2,000 Muslim prisoners in the Michigan correctional system, as well as all future Muslim inmates. Photo credit: stockphotosforfree.com.
PHOTO: A court ruling has upheld the religious rights of the nearly 2,000 Muslim prisoners in the Michigan correctional system, as well as all future Muslim inmates. Photo credit: stockphotosforfree.com.
November 22, 2013

DETROIT – Changes are coming to Michigan prisons in the form of meals that accommodate the religious tenets of Muslim inmates, and greater flexibility for prisoners to attend religious observances.

They may be in prison, but that doesn't mean they don't have a fundamental right to practice their religion, according to Dan Quick, cooperating attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

Quick, who filed the suit that led to the settlement, says for years, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) has provided religion-specific diets to inmates of other faiths.

"Jewish inmates had been able to receive kosher meals,” he says. “Buddhist and Hindu inmates also had been able to receive special dietary meals. But Muslim inmates had not been granted that. "

Under the settlement, in addition to what are known as Halal meals, the MDOC must also allow Muslim inmates to congregate on the two principal religious holidays.

There are currently more than 1,800 Muslim inmates in the Michigan prison system.

Quick says this settlement has implications far beyond the Muslim community.

"Anytime that basic constitutional rights are protected, it should be perceived as a good thing for everybody,” he points out, “and it probably will have impact around the country. "

In August, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the MDOC had violated the religious rights of Muslim inmates by denying them the ability to attend holiday meals and refusing to accommodate their attendance at weekly prayer services.





Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI