What does your religion not forbid?

"Muslim justice of the peace cannot be banned"

Legal scholar Fabian Wittreck on religious parallel justice in Germany

According to the legal scholar Prof. Dr. Fabian Wittreck “don't just forbid”. The picture is ambiguous, said the researcher from the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” at the University of Münster on Tuesday evening in a lecture on “Religious parallel justice in the rule of law?”. If such mediators act in civil law cases, it is legal, provided that the mediator is involved voluntarily. Criminal cases in which a "justice of the peace" takes action before the authorities are involved are also unproblematic. Only when the investigators were active, the accusation of preventing punishment in the room. "Even in the case of serious crime, the attempt to settle such acts through arbitration 'in the family' is forbidden and punishable."

Religious parallel justice can generally claim “the protection of freedom of belief” in German law, the lawyer emphasized. There are no constitutional reasons justifying a “global ban” on religious arbitration. Rather, it should be shown in individual cases that criminal laws are actually violated or fundamental rights are negated. Or it must be proven that those affected have not really voluntarily submitted to a spiritual court. The lecture marked the beginning of the lecture series “Religious Diversity. A challenge for politics, religion and society ”, which the Cluster of Excellence is organizing in the winter semester with the new“ Center for Religion and Modernity ”(CRM).

Nonetheless, the scientist advised against showing the “justices of the peace” any unrequested concession from the state. It is conceivable that the state "actively" tolerates informal arbitration, recognizes it as a cooperation partner or even sets up state-recognized religious arbitration. From a legal-political point of view, however, recent research argues against this: "They suggest that religious jurisdiction increases the cohesion of groups with a migration or diaspora background, at the same time strengthens their religious leaders and thus does not have any effect on integration." Prof. Wittreck advocated this to resist the “temptation of religious parallel justice” and to adhere to the “ideal of equal state legal protection for all”.


Reaction of the Catholic Church

About the extent of the “instead of justice” of the “justice of the peace” in Berlin and elsewhere can only be speculated so far, said the researcher. Reports about it are often too
"Alarmist". There was a lack of reliable surveys. Instead of “backyard jurisdiction” one should speak of “informal religious arbitration”, which should be seen in the larger context of the interaction between secular and spiritual jurisdiction. “It should also be noted that the 'justices of the peace' come mainly from Muslim countries, but mostly do not motivate their decisions religiously or even derive them from Sharia law. Your clientele is determined by the national team, less denominational. "

Legal scholar Prof. Wittreck emphasized that conflicts between secular and spiritual jurisdiction have often existed in European legal history, and even today they are not limited to “Sharia judges”. The extensive exclusion of state legal protection by church labor courts is currently under pressure to justify itself. “The reaction of the Catholic official church to the abuse scandal can also be interpreted as an expression of a very specific understanding of areas of responsibility of secular and spiritual jurisdiction. In other words, we would be doing Islam injustice if we viewed its judges in isolation from other phenomena of religious jurisdiction. "

The researcher, who heads the project C4 “Spiritual Jurisdiction of Religious Minorities - Integration or Segregation Factor” at the Cluster of Excellence, presented four forms of clerical jurisdiction that have different potential for conflict with the law of the secular constitutional state. Firstly, this includes “classical ecclesiastical jurisdiction”, which is limited to internal matters such as doctrine, organization and ecclesiastical marriage and acts without the help or control of the state. A second form, the “state-recognized religious arbitration”, according to Prof. Wittreck, harbors more potential for conflict and does not exist in Germany; In the USA, on the other hand, there is a lively Jewish arbitration system and in Great Britain a “Muslim Arbitration Tribunal”.

The researcher described the third form as “state-ordered ecclesiastical jurisdiction”, which can be found in Israel, for example, and which in Germany at least actually exist with a view to ecclesiastical labor courts. The fourth form applies - as in the case of the “justices of the peace” - the adjudication or arbitration of religious actors without any state recognition or control, “which is why the 'decisions' are only implemented through voluntary compliance or social pressure”.

Lecture series "Religious Diversity"

The lecture series “Religious Diversity” analyzes various examples of religious plurality from antiquity through the Middle Ages and the early modern period to Germany, England, China and the USA today. Different disciplines have their say: religion, history, Islam and law as well as theology, sinology, sociology and political science. The series follows on from the lecture series “Integration of Religious Diversity from Antiquity to the Present” held by the Cluster of Excellence two years ago.

The lectures followed by a discussion can be heard on Tuesdays from 6.15 p.m. in lecture hall F2 of the Fürstenberghaus at Domplatz 20-22 in Münster. Next week, Old Testament expert Prof. Dr. Rainer Albertz on the topic “How much pluralism can a religion afford? On Dealing with Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel ”. (vvm)