Muslim Inmate Loses Claim for Halal Meals

     CHICAGO (CN) – Illinois prison officials did not discriminate against a Muslim man when they refused to provide him with halal-certified meat, the 7th Circuit ruled.
     Michael Hearn, an inmate at Pontiac Correctional Center, sued the Illinois Department of Corrections claiming that the prison’s refusal to provide the special meals prevented him from exercising his religion.
     Because Jewish inmates are given kosher meals, failure to provide halal meat deprives Muslims of equal protection, Hearn argued.
     But U.S. District Judge Harold Baker dismissed the argument, finding no evidence that Islam requires Hearn to eat halal meat. Vegetarian options give Hearn ample meal choices, he determined.
     The 7th Circuit declined to hear oral arguments, affirming the case’s dismissal in a brief two-page opinion.
     “Hearn cannot salvage his equal protection claim, which requires evidence – not found in this record – that prison officials intended to discriminate against him because of his religion,” the panel wrote.
     Hearn also claimed he was restricted from wearing his cap known as a kufi and prevented from buying oils for use in a purification ritual, in violation of the First Amendment and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Those arguments were not raised on appeal after Baker rejected them.

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