David Moussazadeh Sues TDCJ Over Kosher Meals
David Moussazadeh, an inmate at Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) who requested kosher meals has filed a suit against TDCJ and prison officials, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief.
He contends that TDCJ’s refusal to provide him kosher food violates RLUIPA and Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, however the district court dismissed his claims on two grounds: (1) his administrative remedies had yet been exhausted, and (2) he did not hold genuine religious convictions.
Early Life and Education
David Moussazadeh was raised Jewish and maintained a strictly kosher household. In support of his sincerity to TDCJ and prison officials, he submitted statements detailing hardship caused by his dietetic practices, as well as harassment from prison personnel at Stringfellow for asking for kosher meals.
TDCJ transferred Moussazadeh to Stringfellow’s Enhanced Unit for two years, where he received kosher food from its prison kitchen. Following that transfer to Stiles’ Basic Jewish Designated Unit where there are no free kosher meals served through its dining hall but can purchase some during Passover from its commissary; TDCJ never questioned his sincerity or asked for additional proof; as of oral argument in this appeal Moussazadeh had neither submitted new grievances nor asked to return back to Stringfellow’s Enhanced Unit.
Moussazadeh had the option to transfer back to Basic Jewish Designated Unit (BJDU), however instead was transferred to Stiles, an institution for prisoners classified G5 or above. At Stiles, TDCJ implemented a two-tier system wherein inmates who had demonstrated their faith by participating in Jewish religious observance activities were eligible to receive kosher meals. TDCJ also changed the kool-aid station into a kosher beverage dispenser and introduced a Chaplain Escort Program for Jewish inmates, leading to the establishment of a Kosher Certified Kitchen providing free snacks and beverages, with a designated Kosher Dining Hall providing meals to inmates meeting qualifications for such service.
Achievement and Honors
David was an outstanding leader who ultimately became King of an united Israel. Starting out as a shepherd boy, David quickly transformed into an effective warrior defending his flock against mountain lions while helping defeat Goliath, even though most soldiers were afraid to fight him.
As well as being an accomplished musician who could play the harp and compose songs, he also enjoyed being best friends with Jonathan Saul’s son as well as being close with God.
He worked to improve the lives of poorer members of his community by founding Poale Zion Party and editing its newspaper.
Moussazadeh has always been an active follower of Jewish faith. Born and raised Jewish himself, he has always kept a kosher household.
Moussazadeh exercised his religious freedom by adhering to his religious faith by regularly eating kosher food and making requests to TDCJ’s Chaplain, Kitchen Staff and TDCJ. When these requests were denied by TDCJ he filed this lawsuit alleging violations of RLUIPA and Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
After serving two years in the Stringfellow Unit, Moussazadeh was transferred to Stiles where he would reside under Texas’ most restrictive security classification – administrative segregation.