Religious Law as Foreign Law in Constitutional Interpretation
11 International Journal of Constitutional Law 74 (2013)
28 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2012 Last revised: 12 Aug 2014
Date Written: February 29, 2012
This article challenges the conventional understanding of the separation of church and state by arguing that there is no analytical or constitutional problem with using religious law for the purpose of constitutional interpretation. We situate our arguments within the context of the broader debate on the use of foreign law in constitutional interpretation, and the more recent controversy surrounding the proposed bans on the use of religious law in U.S. state courts. By examining the arguments for and against the use of foreign law, we show how they equally apply to the use of religious law. More importantly, we conclude that differences between foreign law and religious law are, at best, differences of degree rather than kind, and thus do not militate against the use of religious law in constitutional interpretation. The article demonstrates that religious law can be used, and in fact, has already been used by the Supreme Court for four limited purposes, none of which, we argue, offends the principles underlying the Establishment Clause.
The ultimate import of our claim is not that religious law should be used by courts, but that recognizing its potential as a source in constitutional interpretation should result in a deeper and more careful engagement with the possibilities it generates.
Keywords: Religious law, foreign law, constitutional interpretation, judicial review
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