Fighting for the Debtor's Soul: Regulating Religious Commercial Conduct
40 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2010 Last revised: 15 Nov 2011
Date Written: November 15, 2011
While courts often think of religion in terms of faith, prayer, and conscience, many religious groups are increasingly looking to religion as a source of law, commerce, and contract. As a result, courts are being called upon to apply the church autonomy doctrine – which bars courts from reviewing matters of faith, doctrine, and church governance – where commercial conduct is religiously motivated. In this Article, I consider an example of the challenges faced by courts when trying to interpret and regulated religious commerical conduct: the constitutionality of imposing sanctions for violating the Bankruptcy Code’s automatic stay by submitting a dispute for religious arbitration. In considering this example, I suggest that courts, instead of trying to take religion out of the equation, need to develop an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the religious dynamics of a case to know when they can – and cannot – review and regulate the conduct in question.
Keywords: Church Autonomy, Religious Arbitration, Shunning, Establishment Clause, Automatic Stay
JEL Classification: K00, K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation