OU Joins in Call for Federal Court to Uphold New York Kosher Food Laws

Posted on September 24, 1999 In Press Releases

Today, an attorney representing the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America among a coalition of Orthodox Jewish organizations, as well as the New York State Attorney General’s office argued before U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon in favor of upholding the constitutionality of New York State’s kosher food certifications laws. The provisions of New York State law at issue essentially call for truth in labeling when it comes to a merchant asserting a food product is kosher.

The laws have been challenged by a Long Island butcher as an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause since they establish Orthodox kosher standards as the baseline for compliance.
The coalition of organizations was represented before the court by attorney Nathan Lewin. The core of the argument asserted by Mr. Lewin on behalf of the Orthodox coalition is that there is no improper establishment of religion in New York’s effort to ensure that foods represented to consumers as kosher are in fact kosher.

Nathan Diament, director of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, stated in connection with the court hearing that “people should recognize that New York’s laws do not infringe anyone’s religious freedom. These laws are designed to protect consumers who wish to purchase kosher food in New York from fraud. To do so, they take a very practical approach – that is to operate from a baseline that serves the interests of all kosher food consumers.

Non-Orthodox (and non-Jewish, for that matter) kosher food consumers will unquestionably obtain kosher food if the Orthodox baseline is utilized. This benefits everyone and continues to respect everyone’s opportunity to enjoy religious freedoms guaranteed by our federal and state constitutions.”