A Nazi-tattooed inmate’s lawsuit against the Missouri prison system for not providing him kosher food has gone to court.
Norman Lee Toler, who was once found in his cell with white supremacist literature and sports an SS tattoo, says he is Jewish. He sued the Missouri Department of Corrections for refusing his request for kosher food, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton last Friday gave lawyers until Feb. 11 to file briefs in the case, and may rule by the end of February.
Should Toler win, a prison spokeswoman said, the system of asking prisoners their religious affiliation without verification could change.
Missouri prisons stopped providing kosher or vegan meals several years ago due to the much higher cost.. But prison officials say that Toler may purchase kosher food in the prison canteen or eat the vegetarian offering. They also said he is given ritual items for Jewish holidays and twice-weekly chapel time.
Sixty to 70 Jews are among the state’s 30,000 inmates.
Toler, who is serving a 10-year sentence for statutory rape of a girl younger than 14, initiated the suit two years ago, claiming the refusal to provide him kosher food violates federal law and his constitutional right to religious expression.
Prison officials say they question the sincerity of his jailhouse conversion, noting that he only initiated the lawsuit 10 months after his incarceration. Toler responded that he didn’t realize he could sue for the special food.