Indiana jail being sued adopts halal meal plan for Muslims

Gannon Thomas (Photo Provided/Boone County Sheriff's Office)
Gannon Thomas (Photo Provided/Boone County Sheriff's Office)

LEBANON, Ind. (AP) — A central Indiana jail that was sued by a Muslim inmate announced Wednesday that it is now providing a diet that follows Islamic dietary laws.

The Boone County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday its jail has adopted a six-week halal meal plan for Muslim inmates. The development came days after a federal judge granted the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana’s request to drop a lawsuit it filed over non-halal meals in August.

The ACLU accused the jail of violating the constitutional rights of inmate Gannon Thomas and his rights under Indiana’s contentious Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. The law signed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence last year states government entities cannot pose a substantial burden to a person’s exercise of religion.

Thomas, 27, of Lebanon objected to being served pork and other meat that had not been slaughtered according to Islamic laws. He’s being held on pending burglary and probation violation charges, jail records show.

The halal meal plan follows a vegetarian diet that includes bread, cheese, rice, fruits and vegetables, among other items.

“The sheriff has been providing a halal diet, which is what we wanted, so therefore the case has been dismissed,” ACLU legal director Ken Falk said. The lawsuit was dismissed Friday.

Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen said in a statement his office consulted a nutritionist about the halal diet.

“The Boone County Sheriff’s Office continuously strives to provide safe and secure detention while respecting each inmate’s constitutional rights. The prompt dismissal of this lawsuit verifies their commitment to this mission,” Nielsen said in the news release.

“We also have adopted a six week halal meal plan for those inmates that practice the Muslim religion and adhere to these specific meal regimens. This meal plan is compatible in protein and other nutrients and is approved by our dietary nutritionist,” Nielsen said.