Court OKs kosher food ordinance Hot dog seller's case back to federal court

January 30, 1992|By Michael Ollove qFB

George Barghout, who wants to sell kosher hot dogs that aren't, got no satisfaction from Maryland's highest court this week.

The owner of several eateries in the Baltimore area, Mr. Barghout had asked the Court of Appeals to strike down Baltimore's kosher food ordinance for unconstitutionally creating a religious body within city government.

But the Maryland court ruled that the state's constitution does not offer protection from the imposition of religion practices by government.

The case will return to the U.S. District Court, where a federal judge will now evaluate the city's ordinance by the differing standards of the U.S. Constitution.

In 1989, Baltimore's Bureau of Kosher Meat and Food Control began to cite Mr. Barghout repeatedly for violation of the city's kosher food laws.

The bureau seeks to assure the authenticity of foods advertising themselves as kosher.

The bureau's inspector, a rabbi, complained that kosher and non-kosher hot dogs were cooked on the same rotisserie at Mr. Barghout's Yogurt Plus on Reisterstown Road. Jewish dietary laws forbid the mingling of kosher and non-kosher food. The result, the inspector ruled, was that Mr. Barghout's "kosher" hot dogs were rendered non-kosher, contrary to Mr. Barghout's advertising.

Mr. Barghout, a Palestinian emigre, complained that no one could dictate to him what was kosher. In November 1990, he was convicted by a Baltimore City District Court judge and ordered to pay a $400 fine.

Mr. Barghout decided to go to federal court. Before ruling, U.S. District Judge Frederick N. Smalkin asked Maryland's Court of Appeals to decide whether the kosher foods ordinance violated the state's constitution.

Yesterday, Maryland's high court ruled that it did not.

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