Updates on Anti-Sharia’ Legislation: South Dakota Signs, Florida Drops, New Jersey Withdraws
South Dakota’s governor signs a law that says it targets “religious law” but which in fact was drafted to target Muslims:
Yesterday, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) signed an unconstitutional law that purports to target courts applying religious law, but which is almost certainly part of a broader push by Islamophobic advocates to fight the imaginary problem of courts substituting Islamic law for American law. The brief bill Daugaard signed provides simply that “[n]o court, administrative agency, or other governmental agency may enforce any provisions of any religious code.”
Although this bill does not specifically call out any particular religion for ill treatment, it violates the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution. As the Supreme Court explained in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah, “the protections of the Free Exercise Clause pertain if the law at issue discriminates against some or all religious beliefs or regulates or prohibits conduct because it is undertaken for religious reasons.”
While it is uncommon for American courts to apply religious law, it is not unheard of. Private parties sometimes enter into contracts where they agree to resolve their disputes under something other than U.S. law, and individuals sometimes write wills devising their property according to the tenets of their faith. Under the bill Daugaard signed, however, courts will be allowed to enforce contracts requiring disputes to be resolved under French law or ancient Roman law or under the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons second edition rules, but they won’t be allowed to enforce contracts requiring disputes to be resolved under the requirements of someone’s religious beliefs. This is discrimination “against some or all religious beliefs,” and is therefore unconstitutional.
Some good news from New Jersey:
by Yusuf Khan
Among a series of setbacks for the McCarthyist-style anti-Shariah movement, New Jersey became the newest state to drop its ridiculous A-919 bill penned to prohibit the application of “foreign laws”.
Fabricating an imaginary threat of an impending Shariah law that would somehow take over each US state, leading Islamophobes met with initial success as they attempted to influence various lawmakers into considering such a bill for implementation.
As of late however, anti-Muslim hate tactics appear to be falling flat on their face as NJ becomes the latest state – after GA, FL & MN – to withdraw its so-called foreign law bill drafted to protect it from the non-existent Shariah threat.
“New Jersey need not follow other states that have either passed or attempted to pass similar legislation that has the principal objective of demonizing the faith of millions of American Muslims,” said Dr. Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum.
CAIR-NJ Chair Nadia Kahf had the following to add, “Rather than strengthening constitutional protections, these bills undoubtedly violate religious freedom and weaken the independence of our courts.”
“We thank Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi for her decision in support of religious freedom and constitutional rights.”
And some surprising and even more good news from Flordia:
A critic of the unsuccessful Florida bill to ban Shariah law and other foreign legal codes says its failure to pass is evidence of turning public tides on such measures, though a sponsor is promising to try bringing it back.
Though the bill easily passed the House, it was never called for a vote by the full Senate before the Legislature closed its session, effectively killing the legislation for the year.
“I think we may be seeing the tide turn on this wave of anti-Shariah bills around the country,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which opposes such legislation.
A wave of anti-Shariah bills have been introduced in statehouses across the country. Several have stalled or failed, but dozens more await a verdict.
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a foreign law measure Monday, the first victory among advocates for such laws this session.
Three other states — Louisiana, Arizona and Tennessee — previously approved legislation curtailing the use of foreign laws.
Florida’s bill made no mention of Shariah law or any other specific foreign system. It said the use of foreign law would be banned in state courtrooms when it violates rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and in certain domestic situations, such as divorces and child custody cases. It would not have applied to businesses.
Opponents called the law unnecessary and anti-Muslim. Muslim groups were joined by the Anti-Defamation League, a defender of Jewish causes, in their opposition.
“You might as well pass legislation to ban unicorns,” Hooper said. “If it wasn’t so destructive to interfaith relations, to our image around the world, to our commitment to religious and constitutional rights, it would be laughable.”
The most fervently outspoken supporters of such bills caution Shariah law could begin to spread outside of Muslim countries in a slow-speed Islamic takeover of the world. Others say not outlawing Shariah jeopardizes the rights of American women.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who sponsored the Senate bill, said though “wild accusations” have been made about what the legislation would do, its purpose was to ensure only American laws are heard in Florida courtrooms.
“I expect to file the bill again next year if I’m fortunate enough to be blessed by the people of Florida with another term, and I expect it to pass next year,” Hays said.