A few months before he took a toxic mix of drugs and died on a stranger’s couch, Nicklaus Ellison wrote a letter to his little sister.
He asked for Jolly Ranchers, Starburst and Silly Bandz bracelets, some of the treats permitted at the substance abuse program he attended in Florida. Then, almost as an aside, Mr. Ellison wrote about how the Christian-run program that was supposed to cure his drug and alcohol problem had instead “de-gayed” him…
But when his family sued Teen Challenge in 2012 hoping to uncover what had happened, they quickly hit a wall. When he was admitted to the program, at age 20, Mr. Ellison signed a contract that prevented him and his family from taking the Christian group to court.
Instead, his claim had to be resolved through a mediation or arbitration process that would be bound not by state or federal law, but by the Bible. “The Holy Scripture shall be the supreme authority,” the rules of the proceedings state.
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…
In legal circles, those cases, along with the Ellison suit, are considered seminal examples of how judges have consistently upheld religious arbitrations over secular objections…More than anything, the cases show the power of arbitration clauses. An investigation by The New York Times found that companies have used the clauses to create an alternate system of justice. Americans are being forced out of court and into arbitration for everything from botched home renovations to medical malpractice.
RTFA. It is long, detailed – and scary. For most Americans, this is a nation where secular law determined by legislation and judicial examination is the rule. For a small fundamentalist minority, religious arbitration not only provides a crutch centuries out of date – often it is an opportunity to screw the public at large who think they live in a modern nation.