Arbitration is a kind of ADR or alternative dispute resolution. When parties are in dispute, they sign a contract to participate in the arbitration to resolve that. As per the terms of the contract, the parties choose an arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators. As a result, regular arbitration occurs, and the entire process has nothing to do with religion.
Religious arbitration is when the disputing parties opt to have their dispute resolved by a religious tribunal. In such cases, the arbitrator can be a minister, a rabbi, or anyone who serves as a religious arbitrator. Religious tribunals conduct arbitration only in civil cases. Get to know about the benefits and downsides of religious arbitration.
Benefits Of Religious Arbitration
Religious arbitration is similar to regular arbitration to some extent. However, there are many benefits of faith-based arbitration that secular arbitration does not offer. Members of the same belief system might feel obligated to choose this kind of arbitration out of conviction. For example, many followers of Judaism believe that Jews cannot drag matters of contention to the secular court. Followers of many other religions prefer religious mediation or arbitration to litigation.
Social pressure is a big motivating factor here. For instance, in Judaism, if someone tries to resolve a conflict in the secular court, a beth din (rabbinical court) may issue a shtar siruv, which is a contempt of court order stating that the individual has chosen secular court. This may lead to the social ostracizing of that individual.
Religious minorities often choose religious arbitration as they fear they might face discrimination in the secular court. People believe that a religious arbitration would act on morality and equity. As a reason, they feel more comfortable producing their arguments before the arbitrators of their respective value systems.
Religious Arbitration and Secular Issues
Those who are in favor of religious arbitration say that it is comparatively less adversarial as compared to regular arbitration. People who share similar religious beliefs can use religious arbitration to resolve disputes. When a dispute concerns religious matters, a religious arbitrator might be the appropriate individual to preside over the proceedings.
Judges in the civil court don’t have that much information about religious systems. Many people criticize religious arbitration as they feel that religious institutions can dodge the law by allowing religious officials to resolve legal matters.
The nature of religious arbitration is that the court is less likely to review it on an appeal. The reason behind this is the first amendment to the constitution of the United States, which guarantees freedom of religion. The court might deny if you appeal against a decision taken in a religious arbitration.
Judges wouldn’t want to intervene in religious decisions and interfere with an individual’s religious freedom. That’s because if a judge interferes, it could open up scope for interpretation that one religion is getting preference over the other and so on.
Religious Arbitration Clause
You cannot appeal religious arbitration decisions in court. This means that by participating in a religious arbitration, you agree to resolve your dispute outside the court and would adhere to the arbitrator’s decision.
If you have signed a contract for a religious arbitration, you will be bound to take part in the arbitration. Therefore, you have to be careful before you put down your signature on any contract. Knowing what you are giving your consent to is a must, especially if a dispute involves religious arbitration. If the contract and the clause in the contract are valid, you will have to follow the arbitration clause strictly. You can’t ask the court to resolve the dispute later, irrespective of whether the verdict went in favor of you or not.
Arbitration decisions are binding. Therefore, you can’t appeal against a decision in court. When it comes to religious arbitration, judges wouldn’t be willing to interfere. This is because of the U.S. Constitution’s freedom of religion clause. Religious arbitration takes away the option to appeal a decision in a secular court.
So, it is no wonder that most people do not want to opt for religious arbitration. However, when the dispute is religious in nature and the decision is time-bound, people continue to prefer religious arbitration as it matches their requirements.