Here’s another case where a married couple had a contractual agreement requiring a religious duty and a Connecticut state court has agreed to enforce that document, ruling that it did not cause any unnecessary entanglement of the court with religious matters. The ruling is on Lexis, so I can’t link to it.
Rachel and Eben Light had a prenuptial agreement that said that if they ever get divorced, the husband had to pay the wife $100 upon separation for every day until he granted her a Jewish religious divorce, called a “get.” The wife filed a motion with the court to enforce that agreement and force him to pay what he agreed to pay, saying they had been separated for several years. The husband argued that the agreement is a religious document and therefore the court has no jurisdiction to enforce it. The court rejected that argument:
In the present case, a determination as to whether the prenuptial agreement is enforceable would not require the court to delve into religious issues. Determining whether the defendant owes the plaintiff the specified sum of money does not require the court to evaluate the proprieties of religious teachings. Rather, the relief sought by the plaintiff is simply to compel the defendant to perform a secular obligation, i.e., spousal support payments, to which he contractually bound himself…
Enforcement of the prenuptial agreement does not require either the plaintiff or the defendant to engage in any act of worship or profess any religious belief. To the extent that enforcement of the prenuptial agreement advances Judaism by requiring support for the wife until the husband gives her a get, it is an incidental effect of the enforcement of the parties’ contract that Jewish law govern the status of their marriage. Finally, enforcement of the prenuptial agreement does not result in an excessive entanglement with religion.
And this is the correct result. Of course, if this had been an identical contract but the parties were Muslim, Frank Gaffney and Robert Spencer would be screaming about the court enforcing Sharia law. And this is exactly why laws like the one in Oklahoma, forbidding any consideration of Islamic or foreign law are a very bad idea; sometimes contracts require the courts to do so and it is entirely appropriate that they do. Kansas’ recently passed law is considerably better in this regard, forbidding the courts from enforcing such contracts only if doing so violates the constitutional rights of one of the parties.
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