Michael A. Helfand, associate professor of law and associate director of Pepperdine’s Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 10. Titled “A Law We Don't Need,” the piece calls Oklahoma's amendment prohibiting courts from considering Islam's Sharia law in decisions "dangerous and unnecessary."
In early November, 70 percent of Oklahoma's electorate approved this amendment to the state's Constitution: "The [Oklahoma] Courts … when exercising their judicial authority … shall not consider international law or Sharia Law."
“Legislation banning religious arbitration is deeply misguided,” writes Helfand. “The decisions of religious tribunals are unenforceable unless they comply with public policy. And we need them to address cases that constitutional doctrine prohibits from being litigated in government courts. In the end, allowing state and federal courts to ‘consider’ the findings of religious tribunals for the purposes of ‘confirmation’ doesn't violate cherished religious freedoms, it enhances them.”
Helfand's primary research interests are law and religion, arbitration, constitutional law, and contracts. In particular, he has worked extensively on the intersection of group rights and the law, including religious arbitration, Equal Protection Clause jurisprudence, and political theories of toleration. He has published in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, and the Journal of Law & Religion.
He received his JD from Yale Law School and his PhD in political science from Yale University, where his fields included contemporary theory, political philosophy, and American politics. Prior to joining the Pepperdine Law faculty this fall, Helfand was an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, where his practice focused on complex commercial litigation. Before entering private practice, he clerked for the Honorable Julia Smith Gibbons of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.