There is an interesting entanglement case filed in Atlanta, Georgia where Rabbi Shalom Lewis has challenged Georgia’s Kosher Food Labeling Act (OCGA Sec. 26-2-330 ff.) on the ground that it codifies the definition of kosher by the orthodox rabbis.
The state defines kosher food as “food prepared under and of products sanctioned by the orthodox Hebrew religious rules and requirements.” Rabbi Lewis insists that this ignores other Jewish sects, including his conservative teachings, and how they defined the term in violation of the establishment clause.
Here is the entirety of the provision:
As used in this article, the term:
(1) ‘Food’ means any meat, meat preparation, articles of food, or food products, either raw or prepared for human consumption, and whether to be consumed on the premises where prepared or sold or whether to be taken elsewhere for consumption.
(2) ‘Kosher food’ means food prepared under and of products sanctioned by the orthodox Hebrew religious rules and requirements and includes foods prepared for the festival of Passover and termed as ‘Kosher for Passover.’
(3) ‘Person’ means any hotel, inn, delicatessen, grocery, butcher shop, restaurant keeper, or any individual, firm, or corporation operating a boarding house, eating house, lunchroom business, or catering business.
The lawsuit raises a fascinating question. The government is essentially supporting one group’s interpretation of a religious tradition. It is not clear why the government should not leave such questions to the individual buyer and remain neutral on such religious questions. Customers can then look for their own certification of kosher from Orthodox or Conservative groups. We have already seen that customers are more than able to shutdown businesses that lack such acceptance, here.
This is a debate that has also raged in Israel, here.
Here is a copy of the complaint: lewis_v_perdue_complaint