A Muslim inmate is suing an Indiana sheriff’s office for allegedly refusing him meals that follow Islamic dietary laws.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit on behalf of Gannon Thomas Wednesday alleging that the staff violated his First Amendment rights and his rights under Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act by refusing to serve him halal meals, WXIN reported.
The suit alleges that Thomas had repeatedly told the jail staff to serve him food in accordance with Islamic law, which excludes pork products and other meats not killed under certain conditions.
The staff told Thomas that the jail would only provide special meals for medical reasons and not for religious reasons, the suit says.
The Boone County Sheriff’s Office, however, alleges that they had no knowledge of Thomas’s religious practices.
“The fact that Inmate Gannon is alleging that we have discriminated against him by not serving him a ‘religious diet made of Halal food – food that adheres to Islamic Law’ because he is a practicing Muslim is not accurate in my opinion,” Sheriff Mike Nielsen said in a statement. “I was not even aware that there was an issue that one of our inmates had, about the type of food he was receiving because of his religious practices.”
This case is one of the first cases to use the state’s religious freedom law, which was signed by Gov. Mike Pence in 2015, according to the Indianapolis Star.
The law says that the government cannot violate a person’s religious liberty unless there is a “compelling governmental interest” in imposing the burden done in the “least restrictive” way possible.