Food matters to all of us and amongst the roughly 3,500 different groups that make up the American religious landscape, many have practices related to what foods can and cannot be consumed.

Even when in a correctional facility, a person’s religious values about food still matter.

In 2012, a teenager in the Lancaster County Juvenile Youth Center wasn’t getting a diet appropriate for her Muslim beliefs. When she asked for a pork-free diet, she was told to eat what she was given.

Under the First Amendment, Courts have declared that prisoners do have the right to avoid eating foods that are forbidden by their religious beliefs. The Juvenile Youth Center should have been providing wholesome meals for the teen, while still accommodating her religious practices. Continuing to practice religious exercises while imprisoned can help individuals adjust and rehabilitate.

Learn more about Freedom of Religion in Prison.

Instead, the teen had to simply eat the few items she could and had lost ten pounds by the time she informed her Legal Aid attorney of the problem. Once contacted about the situation, the ACLU sent a letter to the Youth Center and the teen got a pork-free tray at her very next meal!

Each and every day, our office receives requests for assistance like this from people in Nebraska’s jails and prisons. And thanks to 50 years of generous support from Nebraskans, the ACLU is there to provide a response.

2016 is the 50th anniversary of the ACLU of Nebraska. We will feature several memories from our five decades of defending freedom in the Cornhusker state here. Do you have a favorite memory? Share it with us!

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