During what is often referred to as the holiday season, a variety of cultures and religions honor an equally diverse number of both religious and secular traditions. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Bodhi Day are just some of the religious holidays that are celebrated this time of year. And for many who don’t subscribe to a particular faith tradition, the season is still seen as an occasion to gather with friends and family.
No matter why you are celebrating this holiday season, we can all celebrate living in a country where religious freedom is a fundamental value. The First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses not only protect the right to believe (or not to believe), but also the right to express and to manifest religious beliefs.
In honor of our country’s proud history of promoting religious freedom, and the ACLU’s commitment to protecting the rights of all religious believers to practice their faith, this holiday season we are highlighting 12 cases we have brought on behalf of a variety of faiths defending religious liberty and the right to religious expression.
Eleventh Day: ACLU Helps a Prisoner Receive Proper Religious Diet
Around the world, many people of faith abide by dietary guidelines that are dictated by their religion. The ACLU supports the rights of individuals to worship as they see fit, and that includes the ability to access a diet consistent with one’s religious beliefs.
Officials at the Teller County Jail in Colorado determined that prisoners could not have “certain religious articles or diets.” That decision prompted one inmate, a practicing Seventh-Day Adventist to reach out to the ACLU of Colorado. The prisoner had repeatedly requested a diet in accordance with his religious beliefs, but was repeatedly denied. For months the inmate was unable to eat portions of the regular prison meals that would have violated his religious tenets, and as a result experienced health problems and lost significant weight.
The ACLU wrote a letter of inquiry which resulted in a revision of the jail’s policy to allow for religious accommodation. Read more…