5.3.3 Religious Law

Religious law can be a formalised articulation of rules which apply to members of a religious sect.  Religious courts may exist, to arbitrate in civil disputes such as divorces or to specify punishments for breaches of their law.

An agreement to be bound by religious law can be regarded as part of a person’s beliefs, so it is arguable that religious law should be permitted under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Appendix 1).  Equally, those who do not recognise a system of religious law should have the right not to be bound by it.

In practice, as described in the following sub-sections, there are three ways in which a system of religious law can be implemented:

  • There are countries where it is the only law (5.3.3.1).
  • There are ways of formalising the relationship between religious law and State law (5.3.3.2).
  • It is possible to ensure that State law does not conflict with religious law (5.3.3.3).

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