Real Estate And Development Expert Leonard Grunstein Proposes Solution For Reconciling A Secular Legal System And Religious Law

Sep 18, 2013, 10:00 ET from Leonard Grunstein

NEW YORK, Sept. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In "Interest, Ribit and Riba," a multi-part article published by The Banking Law Journal, real estate and development expert Leonard Grunstein proposes a solution for reconciling secularism and religious law in conformity with capital markets, allowing the two systems to exist side by side. Published in this month's issue of the Journal, the third and final segment of Grunstein's article explores the Constitutional issues that arise when considering matters of religious law and practice.

Mr. Grunstein explains, in part, that "legal efforts to accommodate religious practices may sometimes violate the U.S. Constitution by unlawfully fostering a particular religion or favoring one religious view over another within a particular religion or creed."

As a result, the terms "Ribit" and "Riba" – which are inherently religious in meaning – cannot be legally codified in a secular society, according to Grunstein. The tension between Western secularism and religious law is further exacerbated by the disputed nature of such structures. To illustrate the futility of trying to reconcile these often incompatible systems, Grunstein compares "Ribit" and "Riba" – loosely defined in Part II of this article as "interest" – to the dietary laws of "Kashrus" and "Halal," which are contentious even within their respective religious communities.

He writes, in part, "Moreover, not everyone within the religion agrees as to the meaning of the term Kosher. There are different standards enunciated by various authorities within the religion. Defining Kosher as in accordance with a particular standard was held to be excessive entanglement of the sort prohibited by the Constitution."

Grunstein argues that these types of conflicts between Western secularism and religious law are irreconcilable. Rather than attempt to integrate them, he suggests structures that avoid this kind of entanglement. This should avoid involvement by US courts in what is at its essence a religious matter.

He concludes by asking, "Why be concerned whether a legal structure designed to be compatible with one system of law is enforceable under another conflicting system of law, which has different traditions and ethical practices. Indeed, the best resolution may be to develop... structures and methodologies that allow each system to exist simultaneously, side by side." 

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About Leonard Grunstein
Leonard Grunstein has decades of experience on the cutting edge of real estate law and finance. After a stint as an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of New York and Counsel to the Mayor's Midtown Office of Development, Mr. Grunstein was an associate at Herrick, Feinstein LLP, becoming a partner in 1980. Upon leaving the firm in 2002, Mr. Grunstein joined Jenkens & Gilchrist as a senior partner, where he remained until 2005. He then joined the international law firm Troutman Sanders as a senior partner, rising as Head of the Real Estate Capitalization Group. In addition to his legal career, Mr. Grunstein was a chairman of both Metropolitan National Bank and Israel Discount Bank of New York. He retired from the practice of the law in 2012. Follow Leonard Grunstein on Facebook    

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