A federal appeals court has ruled that the state of Florida cannot use potential budget problems to deny thousands of prison inmates kosher meals they request for religious reasons.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided Thursday with the Justice Department and against the Florida Department of Corrections. The state wanted permission to discontinue the kosher meals if the estimated $12.3 million cost was needed elsewhere.
The ruling upholds a previous decision by a Miami federal judge. About 10,000 of Florida's 100,000 inmates participate in the kosher program, which includes Jewish inmates, Muslims and Seventh Day Adventists.
The lawsuit was brought against the state in 2012 by the Justice Department under a law guaranteeing the religious rights of people in prisons and other government institutions.