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In reality, such arbitration is well established. For nearly half a century, Jewish, Christian and Muslim tribunals have operated in the United States in concert with government courts. These tribunals preside over matters of religious ritual and also apply religious law to a wide range of disputes between individuals and even commercial entities. Parties, in keeping with shared beliefs and values, can voluntarily agree to submit employment, divorce, contractual and various other types of disputes for resolution. State and federal courts currently treat such religious tribunals as they do all other arbitration panels that litigants can seek out as an alternative to going to court. And, as long as the tribunal and its decisions meet certain standards, government courts routinely “confirm” them — that is, render them legally enforceable…

When it comes to the decisions themselves, just as a court cannot enforce a contract to hire a hit man, a court cannot enforce an arbitration award that requires something such as stoning or caning. Nor could a court confirm a religious tribunal’s child custody decision without making its own independent determination as to what was in the best interests of the child. In the words of a New York court, “An arbitration award that deprives a party of a constitutional right to seek redress or protection in a civil or criminal matter is against public policy.”