Sunday, October 05, 2014

Bankruptcy Court Rejects RFRA Defense To Fraudulent Conveyance Recovery

In In re Khan, 2014 Bankr. LEXIS 4205 (Bkrptcy. ED NY, Sept. 30, 2014), a New York federal bankruptcy court rejected a defendant's Religious Freedom Restoration Act defense against an attempt by the bankruptcy trustee to recover some $35,500, the proceeds of certain real estate transactions, as fraudulent conveyances. Defendant, son of Shahara Khan who filed a Chap. 7 bankruptcy petition argued that:
the Trustee's claims amount to a violation of the RFRA because they would undo the transactions entered into between the Debtor and her son in furtherance of their personal religious, cultural, and familial obligations. In particular ... "[i]t is the religious belief and practice of the family that [the] family is one unit and transfer of an asset from [one family member] to the other does not transfer real ownership." ... [and that] "[i]t is against the religious practice of the family to place mother or son as creditor and debtor of each other."....
The court rejected defendant's claim, stating in part:
Here, the record shows that the Defendant sincerely believes, as a matter of his religion and culture, that there can be no "business between mother and son.".... The Defendant and his sister "had a religious call to respect our mother and to show our respect we put our mother['s] name on our first house we ever bought here at the United States."...  
This Court respects and acknowledges the sincerity of the Defendant's religious beliefs. But that does not mean that those beliefs, and the Defendant's free exercise of his religion, is burdened by the relief sought by the Trustee. The Defendant has not shown that the avoidance of the Mortgage Proceeds Transfer and the Sale Proceeds Transfer ... substantially burdens the Defendant's right to practice his religion. He has not shown that he will be required to refrain from engaging in a practice important to his religion, or compelled to choose between following the precepts of his religion or accepting a benefit  under law. Nor has he demonstrated that he is under "substantial pressure . . . to modify his behavior" or "to violate his beliefs."