Archbishop Williams and Sharia Courts
Robert O brien
robertobrien at verizon.net
Thu Feb 7 12:15:40 PST 2008
Of course, in Britain the conflict regarding church law and government law goes back to the conflict regarding Becket Archbishop of Canterbury and Henry II regarding which court will try two minor priests concerning charged with murder. That led to a group of knights killing Becket in his cathedral.
----- Original Message -----
From: Vance R. Koven
To: Law & Religion issues for Law Academics
Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2008 12:55 PM
Subject: Archbishop Williams and Sharia Courts
I love pregnant controversies like this. The Archbishop of Canterbury has endorsed the idea of allowing, to some undefined extent, separate legal systems apply to different religious and cultural groups in Britain, notably Sharia law for Muslims.
News story here:
While the UK, like the US, supports parties' ability to stipulate that a particular dispute may be submitted to religious courts so long as they consent and there are no other social externalities, to what extent can a constitutionally bound polity permit such things if not all parties consent, or if a party withdraws consent? And to what extent should secular courts recognize the judgments of religious courts when the outcomes transgress certain public policies of the state? And to what extent should the parties' agreement to apply religious law govern an action in a secular court (and if it's like a choice-of-law clause in a contract, how is the applicable law "proven")?
One tends to think about the deference paid to commercial arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act, but even there a court need not enforce an award that contravenes public policy, and there are some rather fine distinctions drawn about when a court will strike an arbitration clause. At the same time, courts have permitted arbitrators to hear and decide claims under regulatory statutes like the antitrust laws and the securities laws.
Without a written constitution, it may be difficult to ascertain how far such deference (in the case of religious courts) could go in the UK. Are there limits in the US beyond the limits to which parties can make contracts?
Vance R. Koven
Boston, MA USA
vrkoven at world.std.com
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