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tribunal set up by religious authorities to deal with disputes among clerics or with spiritual matters involving either clerics or laymen. Although such courts are found today among the Jews (see bet din) and among the Muslims (Shari'ah) as well as the various Christian sects, their functions have become limited strictly to religious issues and to governance of church property. During earlier periods in history, the ecclesiastical courts often had a degree of temporal jurisdiction, and in the Middle Ages the courts of the Roman Catholic Church rivalled the temporal courts in power