NEW YORK, August 3 (AP)--A federal judge has struck down state statutes that set standards for kosher food, saying they violate the First Amendment by "endorsing and advancing religion."

The decision by U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon was part of a ruling in favor of two butchers who sued the state Department of Agriculture and Markets in 1996, alleging the long-standing laws violated church-state separation.

Gershon found that "the entanglements involved here between religion and the state are not only excessive in themselves, but they have the unconstitutional effect of endorsing and advancing religion."

A spokesman for Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said Thursday that the state would likely join several national Orthodox groups in an appeal of Gershon's decision last month. "We're committed to protecting kosher consumers," said the spokesman, Darren Dopp.

Meanwhile, one of the plaintiffs, Brian Yarmeisch, said he was "thrilled" by the ruling.

In the lawsuit, Yarmeisch, co-owner of Commack Self-Service Kosher Meats in Commack, N.Y., said that his shop, though not Orthodox, still produced products sanctioned by "a duly ordained rabbi."

The plaintiffs alleged the business had been subjected to "irregular, arbitrary and capricious inspections" by the state's Kosher Law Enforcement Division. Since the mid-1980s, inspectors cited and fined the shop for everything from failing to properly label kosher chicken to incorrectly salting veal spare ribs.

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