The Impact of Institutions and Organisations on European Family Law
Edited by Jens M. Scherpe
Chapter 8: The impact of religion on European family law
Historically, churches, clans and cultural groups administered matters related to birth and death, partnering and procreation, property and inheritance, and the other myriad affairs that we today call family law. Not so long ago, a chapter addressing the impact of religion on European family law could safely have been assumed to be about the past. Religion, most obviously in the form of canon law, is well known to have played an important role in the historical development of family law throughout Europe and, even when canon law itself was replaced by civil legal rules, the underlying concepts and values retained their influence as foundation blocks for modern regulatory frameworks. There was a time when the regulation of families was quite properly within the sphere of religion. But while religion clearly mattered in the past, in modern Europe it had long since lost priority within the contemporary legal regulation of families and in academic family law debate. Those jurisdictions where religion openly continued to shape aspects of the legal framework were considered as unusual and interesting, but certainly not reflective of mainstream, family law in Europe. For the majority, family law had become characterised by secularity and driven by equality and individualism. Against that background, the speed and extent of the re-emergence of religion as a major concern has been quite shocking.
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