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Religious tribunals, religious freedom, and concern for vulnerable women [2012] CFLQ 363

Date:20 DEC 2012

Keywords: religious tribunals; religious freedom; vulnerable women

For the most part current English law does not interfere with the operation of religious tribunals. The role of religious tribunals in family matters is, however, fiercely debated. While many considerations are at play in these debates, two are often set up against each other. Religious freedom is often given, on the one hand, as a reason not to interfere with religious tribunals. On the other hand, however, concern for the vulnerable - especially women in religious groups - is thought to weigh in favour of greater interference. This article evaluates the current legal response to religious tribunals in England and Wales against these two key values in the context of family matters. It also clarifies how religious tribunals can both harm and enhance these values. It finds that, contrary to the way the debate is often presented, religious tribunals can harm religious freedom and enhance the welfare of vulnerable persons.

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