August 10, 2011
N.Y. kosher law passes constitutional muster
New York State’s revised kosher law is constitutional, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Court Judge Nina Gershon ruled last week in Brooklyn that the law, which was revised in 2004 after Gershon ruled it unconstitutional, does not violate the First Amendment right to free speech, as claimed in a 2008 lawsuit by Long Island deli and butcher shop, Commack Self-Service Kosher Meats Inc.
Commack Kosher claimed that the law discriminates against non-Orthodox Jews and their kosher food establishments, The New York Jewish Week reported. The lawsuit was filed after a state inspector visited the store to verify that all products had acceptable labels and that they were “acceptably kosher,” according to the newspaper, citing court filings.
The judge said the inspector misspoke and did not issue a violation. The state in its filings disavowed the inspector’s comments.
“Because the state does not determine if a product is kosher under religious law, whether Orthodox or not, it does not create excessive state entanglement with religion,” Gershon said in her decision. “In sum, there is no danger here that the state will become involved in deciding what is or is not kosher or other questions of Jewish religious law.”
The revised measure turned the state’s kosher law into a labeling and disclosure law; all food labeled as kosher must contain information about the person giving the kosher certification.
In ruling the earlier law unconstitutional, Gershon said it caused “excessive” entanglements between the state and Judaism, since it asked the state to define and enforce Judaism’s laws of kashrut.