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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Religious arbitration: Breaching the wall?

Diverse yet solid...     (Photo by Pawel Wozniak) 
In an ideal world, there would need not be a wall of separation between church and state.  Things would be rendered unto God and unto Caesar in a just and merciful manner.

In a world where authority (religious or otherwise) tends to be abused by humans,
Thomas Jefferson thought it best to maintain that clear separation.

Nevertheless, there currently exists a legal passage through this protective wall known as religious arbitration.  The New York Times explains that religious-arbitration clauses are showing up within more and more contracts used by religious organizations.

Such clauses can insist that religious arbitration be used “to sort out secular problems like claims of financial fraud and wrongful death.”  These contracts have been known to block signatories from taking disputes straight to court.

Religious-arbitration contracts “have often proved impervious to legal challenges.”  Disputes must then be resolved “according to biblical principles.”  Judges have been hesitant to oppose such contracts, fearing a tussle with the First Amendment.

But what about the First Amendment rights of organizational employees and members? And which interpretation of the Bible should be used?  Imposing 1st-century law upon 21st-century folks could be a very dangerous proposition.  Jefferson "built" that wall for a reason.  Perhaps some wayward bricks should be put back in place.


Copyright November 3, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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