Sieger v. Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the U.S. & Can., Inc – Case Brief Summary (New York)

In Sieger v. Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the U.S. & Can., Inc. (1 AD3d 180, 767 N.Y.S.2d 78 [1st Dept 2003]), involving a religious divorce, the court relied on the Second Department's decision in Berger v. Temple Beth-El of Great Neck, 41 AD3d 626, 839 N.Y.S.2d 504 [2d Dept 2007] in holding that "to the extent plaintiff has alleged defamatory statements which can be evaluated solely by the application of neutral principles of law and do not implicate matters of religious doctrine or practice, such as whether plaintiff is sane or is a fit mother, they are not barred by the Establishment Clause" (see id. at 182.)

But, relying on the Second Department's decision in Mandel v. Silber (304 AD2d 538, 756 N.Y.S.2d 887 [2d Dept 2003]), the court held that "the allegedly defamatory statements which would require an examination of religious doctrine or practice or an inquiry into the methodology of how the rabbinical tribunal arrived at its conclusions concerning questions of religious doctrine, . . . are not actionable by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment." (See id.)