IFAS | Freedom Writer | September/October 1990 | kosher.html

Kosher laws are kosher

New Jersey's kosher laws are indeed kosher, a state appellate court ruled on August 7, 1990. In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel held that the state laws regulating the sale of kosher food do not violate the constitutional separation of church and stat e. The majority said it agreed with state arguments that the laws were necessary to protect consumers.

A Linden, New Jersey butcher charged last year with violating the kosher food laws vowed to continue challenging the state's right to regulate kosher food. "We still think the laws are not fair," said the butcher, Arthur Weisman, owner of Ran-Dav's County Kosher.

"It's a victory for New Jersey consumers," said Patricia Royer, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. "A claim of kosher has become relied on as a guarantee of a certain quality, and consumers pay more as a result."

Under state law, kosher is defined as any produce "prepared and maintained in strict compliance with the laws and customs of the Orthodox Jewish religion."

The judges held that the definition of kosher food has been so consistently defined for hundreds of years that the state is not required to interpret what is religiously kosher, but merely state whether those foods meet kosher standards.

The laws outline how kosher foods are to be prepared, transported, packaged, and labeled. Officials of the state Bureau of Kosher Enforcement, which is headed by a rabbi, routinely visit stores selling kosher foods.

Compliance with the rules is "highly labor intensive" and causes the price of kosher food to be "consistently higher" than its non-kosher counterparts, the judges wrote in the complex 33-page decision.

The dissenting judge, William M. D'Annunzio, agreed with Weisman, finding that laws of kashrut "are laws of religious observance and ritual." For the state to define and enforce them, he said, is a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Con stitution.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.