Inmates go kosher—and not just the Jewish ones

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c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The request was an odd one, coming from Norman Lee Toler. Toler, then 25, had spent most of his adult life in prison on charges ranging from writing bad checks to statutory rape. It was that last conviction that landed him in the Northeast Missouri Correctional Center, where he […]

  • It sounds pretty ridiculous because inmates will indeed try to take advantage of kosher meals, either out of paranoia or sheer boredom. But like the article says, prisons are permitted to judge the sincerity of those beliefs. So that’s where I think things get really interesting. How do you judge someone’s religious sincerity? Will they hold hearings? Give quizzes? In effect, isn’t this akin to the prison deciding whether you’re a “real jew”? There seems to be something inextricably intertwined between the validity of a person’s belief and the sincerity of their beliefs, at least in the minds of most people…the thinking will go, after all, “how can he be sincere if he doesn’t know/practice/believe X,Y,Z?”Like so many constitutional issues, this is going to boil down to whatever the court thinks it is, tempered distantly by politics. I don’t think the sincerity/validity distinction is of much practical help. Nick from Avvo
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