Arbitration refers to a legal process in which parties settle legal disputes or conflicts. Arbitration is a private resolution alternative to going to court or proceeding with litigation. In some circumstances, the parties may willingly agree to submit to arbitration. In other circumstances, arbitration is mandatory. Certain agreements, such as employment agreements, contain language requiring that all disputes are to be arbitrated.

Generally speaking, the arbitration process is performed by an individual known as an arbitrator. This person is a neutral third party responsible for listening to the parties’ claims and then deciding on those claims in the form of an arbitration award.

It is essential to mention that certain disputes cannot be arbitrated because state or federal law requires litigation of some matters. An example of this would be how disputes over whether a crime was submitted must be addressed through the court system. Yet, most conflicts between private parties can be arbitrated. The most typical examples of disputes that can be arbitrated include contract and commercial disputes, which are conflicts between businesses.

Alternatively, certain disputes must be submitted to arbitration. This would be because the agreement the parties entered into may require the use of arbitration. An example of this would be a contract or an employment agreement. The terms of mandatory arbitration are documented through a condition in the agreement. This provision is referred to as a mandatory arbitration clause. The mandatory arbitration clause generally requires that a party seeking to settle a dispute try to resolve it through arbitration.

Does an Arbitrator Have to Be a Lawyer?

If the disputing parties willingly agree to arbitration, they will typically select a mutually agreed-upon arbitrator from an arbitration organization. One such organization would be the American Arbitration Association. The arbitration organization provides rules for how matters are to be arbitrated and the credentials of arbitrators and fees.

What Is Religious Arbitration?

Arbitration is one type of alternative dispute resolution. However, regular arbitration is generally held due to the parties having contracted to go through arbitration in a dispute. The parties then select arbitrators or a panel of arbitrators per the contract terms. The matter is entirely secular.

In a religious arbitration, the parties decide to have their argument decided by a religious tribunal instead of a secular arbitrator(s). The religious arbitrator(s) is instead chosen from such candidates as a rabbi, a minister, or a private person who provides services as a religious arbitrator.

Religious tribunals are considered arbitration bodies in the United States for purposes of the civil (not criminal) legal system. Arbitration judgments are, for the most part, binding. Thus, religious arbitration allows parties to go outside the bounds of standard dispute resolution to have it resolved by the tenets of their faith.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Religious arbitration does share some things in common with regular arbitration. They have similar benefits, some of those being the relatively low cost, speed, and efficiency of arbitration compared to a court case. Court cases are often open to the public, but arbitration sessions are not, which affords confidentiality to the parties, who may not wish to expose their private quarrels.

Furthermore, the complicated rules of procedure used in cases litigated in court are not used in arbitrations. Although arbitration proceedings follow the rules, they are more straightforward and adaptable than those used in court. Finally, the chances for settling a case in either a regular or religious arbitration are better than they are for a case litigated in court.

On the other hand, these benefits may be a double-edged sword that negatively affects the parties to the arbitration. The privacy of arbitration proceedings means that there is less transparency. The strict rules of court do not bind the parties, but those rules often provide safeguards for the parties to a dispute.

For instance, without sufficient evidence, as is accounted for by rules of court procedure, the arbitrator may render a conclusion based on preliminary evidence, leading to an unjust outcome. Judges in court rely on earlier court decisions to help them decide their cases. Still, arbitrators do not do this, which means arbitration decisions can be all over the place, giving different decisions on similar cases. In short, although the advantages of arbitration are clear, there may also be a good reason to have matters decided in court.

Moreover, abuses that may be perpetuated within a religious system may not be brought to justice by avoiding the court system and using religious officials as arbitrators. Finally, permitting some parties to resolve disputes with religious arbitrators creates a scenario where not everyone is held to the same law.

When Religious Arbitration is Used to Decide Secular Issues

Those who support religious arbitration hold that it is less hostile than regular arbitration and allows individuals of parallel religious views to use them as a guided structure in settling their conflicts.

It may be true that in arbitrations where religious topics are in dispute, a religious arbitrator may be more well equipped to oversee. Civil court judges are meant to be secular and not necessarily informed about foreign religious systems. Of course, if the matter is not particularly religious, that argument does not prevail.

Many critics of religious arbitration feel that it allows religious institutions to evade the law by having religious officials decide legal matters. People who are stuck within a religious system (possibly unwillingly) and are compelled to settle disagreements via religious arbitration might find themselves without recourse when secular decision-makers are unavailable.

Constitutional Restraints Make Court Intervention Harder

The nature of religious arbitration makes it less likely to be revisited by a court on appeal. This is because the freedom of religion is guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Suppose a religious arbitration decision is appealed to a court. In that case, it is even more likely to be denied than the appeal of a regular arbitration decision because judges do not want to interfere in religious decisions and possibly interfere with the religious freedom of the people involved.

A judge’s involvement could also be interpreted as preferring religion in general, preferring a lack of religion in general, or preferring one religion over another.

Know What You’re Giving Up and Contracts Law – Religious Arbitration Clause

Since religious arbitration judgments are so unlikely to be heard on appeal, participation in a religious arbitration essentially removes the chance of handling your dispute in court. You can be compelled to participate in the arbitration if valid contractual grounds require you to do so.
It is essential to be cautious when signing any contract.

Be aware of what you agree to if you are a party to an agreement that requires religious arbitration to resolve disputes. As long as the contract and the clause requiring arbitration are proper, you will be bound by the arbitration clause and precluded from settling your dispute in court, regardless of whether the conflict is religious or secular.

What Happens After Arbitration?

As stated above, arbitration decisions are unlikely to be heard by a court on appeal because they are meant to be binding. This is even more true with religious arbitration due to judges’ reluctance to interfere with freedom of religion matters. There are minimal grounds on which arbitration judgments may be appealed.

Should I Consult an Attorney?

Religious arbitration can be a mysterious process, even more so than regular arbitration. There are many aspects to consider, and a business lawyer can help you decide how to proceed.