May 14, 2012
2d Cir: NY kosher law doesn’t violate First Amendment
Last week, in Commack Self-Service Kosher Meats, Inc. v. Hooker, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New York’s 2004 Kosher Law Protection Act. The court stated that a labeling law requiring manufacturers of kosher foods to file with the state Department of Agriculture before using label on sold products serves a secular purpose of protecting against consumer fraud.
Significantly, the law did not suffer from the fatal flaws of a previous New York kosher law struck down in 2002 because it required courts to make religious decisions, which the First Amendment prohibits courts from doing. As Howard Friedman noted, this law “does not define what is kosher, adopt kosher standards of any particular branch of Judaism nor authorize state inspectors to determine if products are in fact kosher.”
Significantly, the court said:
The court also found a Free Exercise challenge in want because Kosher Act is a neutral, generally applicable law that imposes a nonsubstantial burden and has a rationale basis. In other words, none of the key elements for a Free Exercise violation cut against the kosher law.