Federal Government Subsidizes Halal Food in Public Schools

In recent years, three American public school districts have provided taxpayer-supported lunches meeting Muslim students’ dietary standards. They have not similarly provided lunches satisfying any other students’ religious standards. The halal foods purchased with public funds are costlier than comparable non-halal foods.

This is problematic under the U.S. Constitution’sEstablishment and Equal Protection Clauses. Even if a school district endeavors to provide all students with food satisfying each one’s religious requirements, it would arguably entangle the government in religious observance and so violate the separation of “church” and state. If a school district goes out of its way to provide food satisfying the religious requirements of only some students, but not others, it risks illegally giving them unequal advantages and elevating their religion over others. This is especially so given that the school food is paid for at least partly with public funds, although the schools have been reluctant to reveal how much tax money is involved.