The Relationship between Religious Law and Modern Legal Systems: the Case of Religious Jurisdictions

Despite the assumption that the public sphere is secular, a relationship between religion and law is still present in the daily practice of interpreters of civil law systems. Religious affiliation often leads the faithful to involve religious courts in the resolution of disputes, and to accept their judgements as binding. Religious courts, of course, produce norms that have their source directly in the religious legal tradition. The legacy of religion is also evident in the terminology of many civil code institutions (family, guardianship, inheritance, endowments). They simultaneously represent objects of public and religious laws. In fact, religions ask their faithful to follow behaviors characterized by commonly shared social values. Religious rules sometimes apply directly through the activity of religious courts, sometimes indirectly through a religiously-oriented application of civil legal rules. This oscillation describes an “osmotic” process that may contribute to promoting the “quality” of religious freedom.

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