Get rid of the Get

In the comments to this post I discussed the Jewish form of divorce, the 'Get', and its special status in English law (something that has not escaped the notice of the Islamic community). I explained that the Get does not replace a civil divorce (which is still required to legally dissolve the marriage) and said:
The Get is only needed so that the divorce is recognised by the Jewish community. Without a Get any sexual relationship by the wife with another man will be regarded as adultery under Jewish law, even if she has a civil divorce. Further, if the wife conceives a child by another man then that child and all its descendants will be a 'mamzer' (i.e. religiously illegitimate) for all time, and will not normally be able to marry another Jew. The only special status that the Get has in English law is that one party (normally the wife) can apply to the court for the decree absolute to be stayed until the court is satisfied that the marriage is also dissolved in accordance with Jewish law.

I've been giving this further thought, and it seriously concerns me that a religious form of divorce has been given special status under English law. I can see the rationale - to ensure that the wife is not seriously disadvantaged within her own community - but isn't this approaching the problem from the wrong angle? Surely, instead of kowtowing to the sort of religious nonsense set out above, the law should prevent discrimination against anyone on the basis of whether or not they (or, worse still, their parents) have been through a process that has no basis in the law of the land?


  1. You seem to be suggesting that the state should dictate what religions are allowed to believe. Very dangerous indeed. Look what that thinking did to the CofE in, eg, Elizabeth I's reign. It turned what was supposed to be a reformation to relieve people of the burdens of Catholicism and let people read and interpret the bible for themselves into an agent of state control. The very content of sermons was sometimes dictated by the government, and attendance was compulsory.

  2. I'm not suggesting that at all - the religious can believe whatever nonsense they want to believe, so long as it doesn't involve discrimination against others.

  3. The only "discrimination" in the example you give is the refusal to allow someone to re-marry *in a Jewish ceremony* and not recognising certain people as being Jews. The rabbi can't prevent people from marrying at the register office. You seem to be saying that the state should dictate at least that part of their practices. If that's not the state dictating their beliefs I don't know what is.

  4. If only it were that simple. The fact of the matter is that there will be pressure put upon the parties to such a marriage from their families and community not to marry, and they are likely to be ostracised if they go through with the marriage, as will their children. That is clear discrimination.

  5. John,

    It really is quite a serious thing to suggest that a civilized country says to its minorities that they cannot practise their religion. Your solution amounts to waving some sort of magic (secular) wand to remove the religious stigma of not having a get.

    Not only would that not work (it isn't social pressure that prevents such remarriages - it is that the children of such a couple are not part of the community, which your solution will simply exacerbate rather than change), it is also preferring the ideology of non-religion against the beliefs of a minority. That sort of idiocy is dangerous.

    Don't fall prey to the delusion that because you see things clearly, there is no room for a practice based on disagreement with you. People who set out to coerce others into behaviour and beliefs that they think right end up as tyrants however well meaning their initial motives. That is because they ultimately prefer their belief system to another individual.

    We have disagreed in the past about God and that is an academic debate which is fun for us both. But, forgive me, this post stinks. After a Get, comes ritual slaughter, followed swiftly by Saturdays, teaching Judaism, practising Judaism, circumcision and being Jewish. All of which are, in your words, 'nonsense' to whcih this country 'kowtows'. Go away and read the debates between Priests and Rabbis in the 100 years prior to the Inquisition and the Expulsion from Spain in 1492 (I recommend 'Judaism on Trial' by Hyam Maccoby). Look at the language being used then and, ignoring your private thoughts for the moment and concentrating on the words used, just see if you have enough distance between you to make you feel comfortable. I would be surprised.


  6. OK, I'll state this as simply as I can: people can believe whatever nonsense they want to believe so long as it doesn't adversely affect anyone else.

    And I will not be reading any 'debates' between priests and rabbis - I have far better things to do!

  7. I entirely fail to see what the state, or anyone else, could do about people believing things, short of brainwashing. Nor does legislation tend to stop religious practice, it merely drives it underground. Orthodox jewish families aren't going to stop requiring the get whatever the legislature may say. The history of Catholic recusancy between Henry VIII and the Catholic Toleration Acts shows that fairly obviously.

    Removing the special status to which you refer merely means that the civilly divorced orthodox jewish woman is left back in the limbo of not being able to get the get. The pressure to which you refer is not going to go away.

  8. Unfortunately, Liadnan, the brainwashing has already occurred, when these people were children. I'm not sure that I see any difference between the sort of discrimination to which I refer and discriminating against someone because of their religion (a law with which I entirely agree).

  9. John,

    The fact that you refer to peoples beliefs that don't happen to coincide with your own as "nonsense" betrays your bigotry. You don't have to agree with any one else's belief but you should have the decency not to disrespect them. Jews and other minorities enjoyed the freedom to practice their own faith - including their own laws - for centuries under the Ottoman 'millet' system. This is one of the reasons why the Ottoman empire remained so stable for centuries despite its remarkable diversity. I recommend you read a book entitled "People of the Book" by Zachary Karbell. I am afraid John, that people of such arrogant disposition as you demonstrate in your words, are not fit to deal with clients - how on earth did you become a solicitor? You openly state that you agree with discriminating against someone because of their religion!! In other words because of what they believe! I dread to think how you would treat a Muslim or Jewish client!!
    I wonder what you would have done had you been living in Germany during the 1940's.

    Y. Manwell

  10. Ah, I see that I have ruffled some theistic feathers! Good - theists have had a free ride for too long, demanding undeserved respect. How can I respect a proposition that is based upon no evidence whatsoever? I'll respect your right to have your own beliefs, but I'll not respect the belief itself.

    I'm sorry, where did I "openly state" that I "agree with discriminating against someone because of their religion"? I said exactly the opposite in my reply to Liadnan's comment.

    And please, people, no more history lessons, and certainly no more recommendations to read theology, which is a complete non-subject, based as it is on a delusion.

  11. Oh, and to answer your penultimate point Y. Manwell, I treat all clients exactly the same, advising them upon the law as it applies to them.

  12. Mmm - I have absolutely no doubt that you advise your clients appropriately. Of course, it would be a disgrace if you did anything else.

    What you read is a matter for you, and what you believe you may learn from others is similarly a matter for you. But you have not dealt with my point.

    Your reply amounts to this - you are prepared to stand by and allow people to be disadvantaged and, when they complain, you will say "It isn't me. It is your fault (or your parents')because you believe in nonsense."

    It doesn't take a genius to see the cruelty inherent in that. Surely we should oppose discrimination based on stupidity, credulity and upbringing?

    My problem is that - a la Voltaire - I would defend you in a theistic culture. I don't see much of Voltaire coming the other way.

  13. "you are prepared to stand by and allow people to be disadvantaged" - that is exactly what I am not saying - the law should protect people from being disadvantaged. Unfortunately, it seems that the religious are being allowed to discriminate against others of their group, using religion as a shield against the law.

    "Surely we should oppose discrimination based on stupidity, credulity and upbringing?" My point precisely.

    Of course, we wouldn't still have these problems if humanity had by now grown out of primitive religious notions.

  14. Great debating. Lousy sense. Think about it - you have just said that the law should intervene to protect people from being discriminated against religiously. Are you serious?

    If you are then you are happy to impose your solution on people who don't want it, based entirely on your view of what is good for them. Bring back colonialism and let the white man bear the burden of sorting out all these people's superstitious beliefs!

    That's discrimination.

    I could say that the certainty that only you know what is right and that only what you know is right is acceptable is so distinctively Christian that you are more religious than you know. But I won't.

  15. Hmm, you don't understand what I'm saying. At first I thought that was my fault, but on reviewing the comments I don't think I could have expressed myself more clearly or simply, so it is obvious that you do not want to understand (whether consciously or not). This is common when dealing with theists, as the virus is deep rooted.


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