Georgia’s new food labeling law is now kosher
Prompted by a lawsuit filed by the New York-based American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Georgia has repealed its Kosher Food Labeling Act and replaced it with a new law mandating that consumers be fully informed about the standards under which any kosher food product is certified. The previous Kosher Food Labeling Act required that any food sold as kosher in the state meet “Orthodox Hebrew religious rules and requirements,” delegitimizing alternative interpretations of kosher adhered to in other Jewish communities, according to the ACLU.
The ACLU and ACLU of Georgia filed a lawsuit last year on behalf of Rabbi Shalom Lewis of Congregation Etz Chaim in Cobb County, Ga., challenging the constitutionality of the Kosher Food Labeling Act. The lawsuit charged that the Kosher Food Labeling Act violated the religious liberty guarantees of both the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions by endorsing only “Orthodox Hebrew religious rules and requirements” and criminalized the practices of the many people across the state who, while seeking kosher products, subscribe to interpretations of kosher that differ from those of Orthodox Jews.
The new law, signed by Gov. Sonny Purdue on May 20, no longer institutionalizes an official definition of kosher and instead requires that all food and food establishments represented as being kosher clearly disclose to consumers the practices and standards by which the food was prepared. “The state should never be in the position of deciding which religious beliefs are ‘legitimate’ and which are not,” said Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “The state legislature did the right thing by making clear that the power to define what is religiously acceptable should never rest with the government. These are personal religious decisions.”