Concerns raised about penalties for violating Illinois’ religious lunch measure

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(The Center Square) – A measure that Gov. J.B. Pritzker vetoed over the summer has been reworked. Some still have issues with the legislation that aims to put kosher and halal meals in state schools.

Senate Bill 457 passed the Senate during the fall veto session after being brought forward by state Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago. The measure also provides a misdemeanor penalty for those in violation.

State Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, had issues with the penalties during debates.

“There are some issues in the bill, number one, there are some penalties involved in the bill, misdemeanors,” Bryant said. “There are differences in how those who have violations in kosher are charged as opposed to those who have violations in halal.”

The measure states that any false representation of kosher food would become a Class C misdemeanor on the first violation, and a second would lead to an increased charge to a Class B misdemeanor. Halal food carries a harsher penalty, starting at Class B, which some believe is unconstitutional.

“You have two foundational constitution problems,” said state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet. “You are now saying that somehow the Jews are different from the Muslims in how you are sentencing them.”

Villivalam said the penalties have been in place for some time but he is willing to work to provide a solution that works for everyone.

“The halal food act and the kosher food act has been existing law,” Villivalam said. “The discrepancy that exists between the misdemeanors has been there, and certainly I would love to work with you on that during the spring session to address that.”

The bill is now up for concurrence in the Illinois House. Lawmakers return on Nov. 7.

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