For the past couple of days, the New York Times‘ Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Robert Gebeloff have been reporting on the nature of arbitration in lieu of courts when it comes to settling a dispute. In general, there have been a lot of cases where arbiters, already cozy with the companies they’re supposed to judge, side with the companies (who’d have thunk?) even when the evidence points in the other direction.
In the final part of the series, the reporters focus on religious arbitration, when Scripture supersedes secular law:
For generations, religious tribunals have been used in the United States to settle family disputes and spiritual debates. But through arbitration, religion is being used to sort out secular problems like claims of financial fraud and wrongful death.
… some lawyers and plaintiffs said that for some groups, religious arbitration may have less to do with honoring a set of beliefs than with controlling legal outcomes. Some religious organizations stand by the process until they lose, at which point they turn to the secular courts to overturn faith-based judgments, according to interviews and court records.
In one case, a man sued the Church of Scientology saying it defrauded him out of tens of thousands of dollars… only to have the issue settled by a panel of Scientologists. Guess who they sided with?
“I am being forced to go before a court run by a religion I no longer believe in,” said [Luis] Garcia, the former Scientologist. “How could that happen?”
The main story in the piece, however, involves a gay teenager with substance abuse problems who ended up at a Christian rehabilitation center by court order. The people there made him do unpaid manual labor, tried to de-gay him, and lied about sending him to the hospital during an emergency. When the boy wound up dead, it was a Christian group that mediated the dispute. They ended up settling for an undisclosed amount, but the boy’s mother never learned the details of how her son died or what exactly happened while he was at the center.
Had the case gone through a secular court, that information would have come out.
The problem isn’t arbitration. It’s arbitration where the outcome is already predetermined because corporations vet the mediators ahead of time or churches use a faith-based system that’s already rigged in their favor.
In these cases, it’s just another disturbing example of religion being used as a tool to maintain control over others. And it’s appalling that secular courts would allow it to occur as a substitute for the work they’re supposed to be doing without maintaining clear oversight.
This is what a theocracy looks like.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Jon for the link)