Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
NY Times Arbitration Article

Religious Arbitration, Where Scripture Makes The Rule Of Law

In the final installment of the New York Times groundbreaking three-part series on forced arbitration, the paper found that as companies increasingly use forced arbitration agreements to restrict consumer rights, religion is not exempt from the alternate-to-justice arbitration process.

As the Times noted, “For generations, religious tribunals have been used in the United States to settle family disputes and spiritual debates. But through arbitration, religion is being used to sort out secular problems like claims of financial fraud and wrongful death. By adding a religious component, companies are taking the privatization of justice a step further.”

Those promoting religious arbitration claim the process allows people of faith to work out problems using shared values, achieving not just a settlement but often reconciliation. Yet some say religious arbitration may have less to do with honoring beliefs than simply controlling legal outcomes. There are reportedly religious organizations honor the process until they lose, at which point they switch to secular courts to overturn previous “faith-based” judgments, according to the Times’ research.

And what about when faiths differ? As the Times pointed out, “Religious arbitration clauses … have often proved impervious to legal challenges.” This introduction of a religious component into the arbitration process takes the “privatization” of justice even further.

“Religious arbitration, at its best, ensures that people can resolve their disputes in accordance with deeply help religious beliefs,” said Michael A. Helfand, an associate professor at Pepperdine University School of Law and an arbitrator in a rabbinical court in New York. “But both religious communities and courts need to make sure that the protections the law has put in place to make it a fair and unbiased process are actually implemented.”

Read the full final installment of the New York Times arbitration article.

The American Association for Justice (AAJ) invites consumers to sign the petition to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help ensure the CFPB can revoke corporations’ license to steal by stopping the abusive practice of forced arbitration.

Learn more about Lieff Cabraser’s Consumer Protection practice.