Here’s a very interesting piece by Ian Bartrum (UNLV) on the ways in which the Restatements of Law (assembled by the American Law Institute, the Restatements aim to condense and synthesize bodies of law) incorporate or otherwise treat religion, and how they might do so more effectively. Because the abstract is very short, but because there is a request not to cite from the paper, I’ll just say quickly that Ian divides up the treatment of religion into two components which correspond roughly to the two guarantees of religious freedom under the religion clauses. There are provisions in various Restatements that approach religion as a matter of “natural” or fundamental right (as in the Restatement of Foreign Relations and in the Restatement of Servitudes [who knew that there was a Restatement of Servitudes!?]). But there are other provisions that seek to avoid judicial entanglement in issues of personal or institutional autonomy–such as in the “Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution” involving the religion of children of divorced couples and the extent to which courts should involve themselves in making comparative judgments about religions–reflecting familiar establishmentarian concerns.

After considering several examples where the Restatements seem to evince cross-cutting views about religion, Prof. Bartrum notes a few places where the Restatements might give greater (or even some) attention to religion. The Restatement of Torts, for example, might attend to some of the recent issues involving church autonomy and the ministerial exception. And the Restatement of the Conflict of Laws might consider some of the recent issues involving the enforceability of arbitration decisions in religious contexts. I hope these suggestions are adopted by the American Law Institute.

One thought on “Bartrum on Religion and the Restatements

  1. Very interesting. At an ALI meeting a couple of years ago, someone (not me!) suggested from the floor that the organization should do a Restatement on Law and Religion. Enthusiasm was not noticeable.

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