Gila Stopler

Dr. Gila Stopler is a senior lecturer of law at the Academic Center of Law & Business in Israel. Her areas of expertise are constitutional law, church state relations, multiculturalism and women’s rights. She graduated from the Faculty of Law at the Tel Aviv University, and obtained LL.M and J.S.D degrees from the NYU School of Law where she served as a Public Service Scholar and a Hauser Research Scholar. She currently serves as co-chair of board of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). Among her recent publications: “Probability Thresholds as Deontological Constraints in Global Constitutionalism” Columbia Journal of Transnational Law (2011) (with Moshe Cohen Elyia); “Women as the Bearers of the Nation: Between Liberal and Ethnic Citizenship” in Democratic Citizenship and War (Peled et. al. eds.) (Routledge 2011); “Rights in Immigration: The Veil as a Test Case” 43 Israel Law Review (2010).

Gila Stopler

Gila Stopler


Religious Education, Human Rights, and Democratic Values – The Case of Israel

In the last two years the Israeli Supreme Court has heard three important cases which have brought to the forefront the conflict between religious educational autonomy and the authority of the liberal democratic state. These cases, which examine the private ultra-Orthodox education system and the private national Orthodox education system, have highlighted a worrying lack of adherence to values that are basic to the democratic state, such as ethnic non discrimination, within these systems, in particular within the ultra-Orthodox system. At the same time, they have highlighted the serious difficulty in achieving social change in religious education through the courts.

The research proposes to use the aforementioned cases in order to ask under what conditions, if any, can courts legitimately, and successfully, intervene in matters pertaining to the educational autonomy of religious communities in order to achieve social change. Specifically—the questions at the heart of my research are—to what extent is it legitimate for the courts to intervene in order to promote democratic values, and what is the best manner to facilitate support for democratic values within the ultra-Orthodox education system, which is the fastest growing education system in Israel today?

I will use theoretical, legal, and social change literature, as well as relevant comparative cases, in order to analyze the various decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court as these cases developed. I will assess the success of its strategy and discuss and examine alternative strategies for achieving social change in religious education in a closely knit illiberal religious community. This is an important question in Israel today because of the significant size of the private religious education system, its refusal to adhere to principles that are basic to the liberal democratic structure, and since, unfortunately, the Court is currently the only state institution that is willing to confront the dilemma, and thus, more and more cases are being brought before it.

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