Prisoners have enjoyed a fair amount of success with claims protecting religious dietary
practices. E.g., Ford v. McGinnis, 352 F.3d 582, 597 (2d Cir. 2003) (“[A] prisoner has a right to a diet consistent with his or her religious scruples”); Lomholt v. Holder, 287 F.3d 683 (8th Cir. 2002) (prisoner’s allegation that he was punished for religious fasting stated a First Amendment claim).
Courts have often found that prisoners have a right to avoid eating foods that are forbidden by their religious beliefs. See Moorish Science Temple of Amer., Inc. v. Smith, 693 F.2d 987, 990 (2d Cir. 1982). Where reasonable accommodations by the prison can be made to provide religious meals, courts have ordered such diets be made available to prisoners. See Koger v. Bryan, 523 F.3d 789, 801 (7th Cir. 2008) (failure to provide vegetarian diet to member of the Ordo Templi Orientis religion violated RLUIPA); Ashelman v. Wawrzaszek, 111 F.3d 674, 678 (9th Cir. 1997) (First Amendment requires provision of kosher diet where prison operations not impacted); but see Baranowski v. Hart, 486 F.3d 112, 122, 126 (5th Cir. 2007) (denial of Kosher meals for Jewish prisoner does not violate the First Amendment or RLUIPA). Courts have also required accommodations for special religious observances related to meals. See Abdulhaseeb v. Calbone, 600 F.3d 1301, 1320 (10th Cir. 2010) (reversing summary judgment in Muslim inmate’s challenge to denial of Halal meat for Islamic feast); Lovelace v. Lee, 472 F.3d 174, 192, 201-02 (4th Cir. 2006) (removal of inmate from Ramadan observance pass list, when he allegedly broke fast, states a claim under RLUIPA and the Establishment Clause); Levitan v. Ashcroft, 281 F.3d 1313, 1322 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (reversing summary judgment for defendants in Catholic prisoners’ challenge to denial of communion wine); Makin v. Colorado Dep’t of Corrections, 183 F.3d 1205, 1211-14 (10th Cir. 1999) (failure to accommodate Muslim fasting requirements during Ramadan infringed on First Amendment rights). Some courts have rejected efforts by prison officials to charge prisoners for religious diets. See Beerheide v. Suthers, 286 F.3d 1179, 1192 (10th Cir. 2002) (no rational relationship between penological concerns and proposed co-payment for kosher diet).
Prisoners requesting highly individualized diets, however, have rarely been successful. See DeHart v. Horn, 390 F.3d 262, 269-72 (3d Cir. 2004) (officials not required to provide Mahayana Buddhist diet requiring “individualized preparation” including avoidance of “pungent vegetables” such as garlic and onions); compare Shakur v. Schriro, 514 F.3d 878, 885 (9th Cir. 2008) (Muslim inmate for which vegetarian diet causes gastrointestinal distress states a claim under the Free Exercise clause when the prison refused to alternatively provide a kosher meat diet even where his issue with the vegetarian diet was medical and not religious in nature).