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October 15, 1993 - Image 110

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-10-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

41r

3

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'GAGS (fr GIF

-Uncle Zeke

44.1

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Judge Strikes Down
Kosher Food Law

New York (JTA) — In a deci-
sion that may impact
government enforcement of
kosher food practices in the
United States, a federal
judge has struck down
Baltimore's kosher food or-
dinance, calling it an un-
constitutional entanglement
of church and state.
The decision may affect
similar laws in the 15 to 20
states and the handful of
counties and municipalities
where they exist.
Although the New Jersey
State Supreme Court in
1992 struck down that
state's kosher food laws as
unconstitutional, this is the
first time a federal court has
ruled against legal enforce-
ment of Jewish dietary laws
by government agencies.
In New Jersey, the regula-
tions have been rewritten to
conform with the court's
decision.
In the Baltimore ruling,
however, the city's Bureau
of Kosher Meat and Food
Control has been outlawed.
In his Oct. 1 ruling, U.S.
District Court Judge Benson
Legg called the Baltimore
ordinance's purpose of pro-
tecting consumers from
kosher food fraud
"commendable," but said
that "its primary defect is
that it excessively entangles
civil and religious au-
thority."
In response to the decision,
Baltimore's chief lawyer
said the city plans to appeal
it to the Supreme Court, if
necessary.
"We feel very strongly
that our kosher food law is
constitutional," Baltimore
City Solicitor Neal Janey
told the Washington Post.
"Judges are just uncomfor-
table with the state being
involved with anything
smacking of religion," said
Dennis Rapps, executive di-
rector of COLPA, the Na-
tional Jewish Commission
on Law and Public Affairs,
which represents Orthodox
Jews on church- state
matters.
"They can't deal with it in
a clear way, so they throw
the baby out with the bath
water, not making the fine
distinctions they usually
make.
Consumers suffer
"because they're being
defrauded" while the
government is not able to
ensure that they are really
getting kosher food, he said.

A representative of the
Union of Orthodox Jewish
Congregations of America,
which certifies kosher pro-
ducts, said, "All these en-
forcement agencies seek to
do -; to protect the con-
sur f" from fraud.
",, s baffling to us that
this sort of (court decision)
takes place," said Rabbi
Jacob Mendelson, a rabbinic
coordinator at the Orthodox
Union.
In his decision, Judge Legg
wrote that the doctrine
separating church and state
outweighs consumer protec-
tion interests in the
Baltimore case, according to
the Washington Post.
Judge Legg singled out as
problematic the city's
employment of a battery of
rabbis. But he ruled that the
city can legally continue the
enforcement of kosher food
standards by not using them
as its experts.
Efforts were made by
COLPA to have the New

The regulations
have been rewritten
to conform with the
court's decision.

Jersey case reviewed by the
U.S. Supreme Court, which
denied the petition.
In New Jersey, new
regulations are set to go into
effect any day, said Yakov
Dombroff, chief of the state's
Bureau of Kosher Enforce-
ment. They will require
retailers of kosher food to
post detailed information
about what is involved in
ensuring that their food is
kosher.
If the N.J. Bureau of
Kosher Enforcement finds
that products are not as
kosher as the retailer says
they are, the retailer can be
prosecuted for fraud, said
Mr. Dombroff.
"We won't be making any
religious decisions, but just
enforcing commercial
disclosure," he said.
The Baltimore case arose
after vendor George
Barghout challenged a fine
of $400 he was charged in a
city court when a city food
inspector said that he
defrauded the public by sell-
ing hot dogs as kosher after
they were cooked on a
rotisserie with non-kosher
hot dogs. ❑

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