Jewish organizations criticized Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker recently for vetoing a bill mandating that the state’s public hospitals and schools provide kosher, halal, and other religion-based dietary options upon request.
The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 mandates that state and federal jails provide such food concessions to inmates.
But for state hospitals and schools, there is no equivalent federal law. The bill, IL HB3643, which the billionaire Jewish Democrat vetoed on August 11, had 33 sponsors when it was presented on February 17.
By adding “religious dietary food options, including, but not limited to, halal and kosher food options” during school lunch programs, the bill, which was amended into law on May 27, required each school district to provide these options for students.
“A school district is required to comply with this subsection only if the State Board of Education is able to secure a statewide education master contract and provide a religious dietary food option to the school district pursuant to this subsection,” the measure said. It was further stated that religious food options had to be available in state hospitals.
It also stated that “kosher” refers to food “supervised, prepared under, and maintained in strict compliance with the laws and customs of the Jewish religion, including, but not limited to, the laws and customs of shechita requiring the slaughter of animals according to appropriate Jewish law, and in compliance with the strictest standards of Jewish law as expressed by reliable, recognized Jewish entities and Jewish rabbis.”
On March 22, the third reading of the bill was approved by the state House 93–14. On May 17, information about kosher cuisine was included. On May 18, it was approved by the state Senate on third reading with a vote of 39-19, and on May 25, the state House approved it with a vote of 63-34, plus 10 “other” votes.
Pritzker explained in a letter to the Illinois General Assembly that local school districts, not the state education board, “have the expertise and understanding of local needs required to enter into food-service contracts.”
This is why Pritzker vetoed the bill. According to his writing, “Districts are already in charge of all food service contracts and will maintain the ability to enter into contracts with meal vendors based on the particular cultural needs of the students and their communities.”
JNS questioned if the governor would accept responsibility if a local school system decided not to offer kosher, halal, or other faith-based meal options to kids after the governor had vetoed the law. Neither gave a response to the inquiry.