Court Had Authority to Compel Jewish Male to Submit to Jewish Ecclesiastical Court

A New Jersey state appeals court ruled that it had authority to compel a Jewish

A New Jersey state appeals court ruled that it had authority to compel a Jewish male to submit to the jurisdiction of a Jewish ecclesiastical court.

The man and his wife were married in 1969, and executed a written contract committing themselves to be bound by the laws of Moses and Israel. The spouses were later divorced, and the wife sought to remarry. However, under Jewish law, she could not remarry without first obtaining a "get" (an ecclesiastical release) from her former husband, since under Jewish law the two would continue to be married until he "released" her.

The court consulted with the Bible and the Encyclopedia Judaica to evaluate the significance of Jewish marriage and divorce, finding such study "necessary because the parties have signed a contract … committing themselves to be bound by such law."

The court concluded that "to compel the [husband] to submit to the jurisdiction of the Jewish ecclesiastical court, the 'Bet Din,' and initiate the procedure to secure a 'get' is within the equity powers of this court." The court's ruling directly contradicts a 1969 ruling of the United States Supreme Court prohibiting the civil courts from ever again resolving disputes on the basis of interpretation of religious doctrine or polity. Burns v. Burns, 538 A.2d 438 (N.J. Super. 1987)

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