Warn­ing over bill to con­trol religious courts

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

MPS ARE to de­bate a pri­vate mem­bers’ bill to reg­u­late religious tri­bunals which the Board of Deputies warns could hit Batei Din.

Cross-bencher Baroness Cox wants to force religious courts which ar­bi­trate dis­putes to com­ply with equal­ity law.

Her pro­posed leg­is­la­tion was given a third read­ing in the House of Lords this week, and will now go to the Com­mons.

It is in­tended mainly to con­trol sharia courts, but the Board has warned that it could­have“un­in­tend­ed­con­se­quences” on rab­bini­cal courts.

If it be­came law, the Lon­don Beth Din fears that “any Ortho­dox Jewish cou­ple who sought guid­ance from a Beth Din as to their rights and obli­ga­tions on the break-up of a mar­riage — with re­gard to prop­erty or child is­sues — would have to be turned away,” ac­cord­ing to a briefing sent to peers by the Board.

The pro­posed law “pre­vents faith mi­nori­ties… from ap­proach­ing their faith tri­bunals for ad­ju­di­ca­tion in a mat­ter which they be­lieve to be cov­ered by the rules of their faith,” it said.

Beth Din hear­ings com­monly take place as recog­nised ar­bi­tra­tion pro­ceed­ings un­der English law.

But if passed, the new law could pre­vent them act­ing ac­cord­ing to Jewish law in cer­tain cases, Fed­er­a­tion Beth Din head Dayan Yis­roel Licht­en­stein said.

Baroness Cox said that the bill’s pas­sage through the Lords marked “an im­por­tant mile­stone for vic­tims of re­li­giously-sanc­tioned gen­der abuse”.

The bill would en­sure that “Mus­lim women have gen­uine ac­cess to knowl­edge con­cern­ing their rights,” she said.

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