New Jersey Appellate Court Opinion re Use of Religious Law

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This New Jersey Appellate Court decision, overturns a trial court's apparent reliance on the cultural norms of an Islamic couple in denying the issuance of a family law restraining order. The husband had violently attacked and engaged in non-consensual sex with the victim wife. The husband was already facing criminal prosecution for his actions. The trial court's decision caused a great controversy at the time as some cited the lower court's decision as deferring to Islamic or Shari'a law in rendering decisions in a United States family law court. A reading of the appellate decision demonstrates that the media characterization was not neither wholly or fundamentally correct. Further, the appellate court rightly overturned the trial court's denial of a domestic violence restraining order, citing the long-established United States Supreme Court rule that, while the First Amendment to the Constitution provides freedom of religion, in terms of what a person may choose to believe, it does not prohibit governmental regulation of acts or behavior that threaten the general welfare of society, regardless of the actor's professed religious beliefs. In the present case, the prevention of domestic violence is clearly within the purview of the government's responsibility to issue and enforce laws for the protection of society, notwithstanding the professed religious beliefs or norms of the alleged offender of such laws.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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