A Houston man in jail for murder should be served kosher meals, a federal appeals court ruled.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed a lower court's judgement, stating that Max Moussazadeh has a sincere religious belief as an Orthodox Jew in keeping a kosher diet and that Texas infringed upon his beliefs by denying him free kosher meals, according to court records filed on Dec. 21.

Moussazadeh, now 35, was convicted in connection with a 1993 murder in Harris County for serving as a lookout while his three co-defendants shot a man to death during a Houston robbery. He is in the Stiles Unit in Beaumont, which does not provide free kosher meals, his attorneys said.

In 2005, Moussazadeh sued after the state denied his request for a kosher meal plan to accommodate his religious beliefs. His case centers around the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which forbids the government from restricting religious rights of an institutionalized person.

"I feel that I am going against my beliefs and that I will be punished by God for not practicing my religion correctly," he wrote in the 2005 complaint.

Kosher meals are based on the Jewish teaching in the Torah that forbidden foods taint not only the body but the soul. A kosher diet is complex, but allows all non-animal products, certain typical or poultry and fish that have fins and scales but forbids pork and any mixing of dairy products and meat. To keep kosher, a meal must be prepared in containers that are untainted by any non-kosher food.

A lower, district court dismissed Moussazadeh's case, ruling the inmate's commitment to a kosher diet was insincere and that all remedies had not been exhausted. That summary judgement has now been reversed.

In 35 prison systems

Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which helped represent Moussazadeh, said in a statement that the latest decision was a great victory for human rights and religious liberty.

"Even prisoners retain their human rights, and the state cannot sacrifice those rights on the altar of bureaucratic convenience," Goodrich said.

In the U.S., 35 prison systems provide kosher diets for Jewish prisoners, as well as the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The state's prison system provides inmates with a choice between pork-free, meat-free and regular diet trays at most units, none of which is considered kosher. In 2007, Texas established a "kosher kitchen" at one of its prison facilities at the Stringfellow Unit in Rosharon, where it provides a free kosher diet to inmates. The state estimates that the cost of feeding all observant Jewish inmates in its prison system would be less than 0.02 percent of its annual food budget, according to the Becket Fund.

Moussazadeh was transferred to the Stringfellow Unit for a few years and the case was ruled moot. He was later transferred to the Stiles Unit, which offers basic kosher products for purchase, because of disciplinary infractions.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice attorneys argued that the inmate chose in some instances to go through the regular line at Stringfellow Unit, even when he had the option for a kosher meal.