- Special Issue

Foreign and Religious Family Law: Comity, Contract, and the Constitution

Article by: Ann Laquer Estin

41 PEPP. L. REV. 1029 (2014)

As a family law scholar, I believe that the goals of secular and religious family law are often harmonious, and I have argued for a legal pluralism in the United States that is subject to the constraints of our fundamental “political and constitutional values, [including principles] of equality, nondiscrimination, [due process,] and religious freedom . . . as well as the protective policies that form the foundation for our particular rules of family law.” This vision of pluralism seeks to accommodate diverse cultural and religious traditions within our secular legal system, and rejects an approach in which autonomous religious institutions exercise independent authority over family law matters. This approach “reflects a contemporary understanding of our society as a diverse and multicultural one, and of the family as central to the establishment of identity and meaning in private life.” My writing has explored the process in which common law courts adjudicating these cases have begun to develop principles defining the terms and limits for accommodation of religious family practices, and I have followed with interest as many judges and scholars in the United States and other countries have made thoughtful contributions to this dialogue.

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