Archive for South Dakota

Updates on Anti-Sharia’ Legislation: South Dakota Signs, Florida Drops, New Jersey Withdraws

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on March 16, 2012 by loonwatch

South Dakota’s governor signs a law that says it targets “religious law” but which in fact was drafted to target Muslims:

South Dakota Governor Signs Unconstitutional Anti-Muslim Bill

By Ian Millhiser

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:

NJ Becomes Latest State To Drop Anti-Shariah Bill

by 

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:

Anti-Shariah bill died when session ended

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.

Georgia Going the Way of Oklahoma and other States

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2011 by loonwatch

Oklahoma got the Islamophobic ball rolling.

Lawyers Speak Against Ga. Bill That Bans Use of Foreign Laws in State Courts

(Law.com)

Critics of legislation in the General Assembly that would prohibit the adoption and practice of foreign laws in state courts say it unfairly targets Muslims, could discourage international business in Georgia and violates federal arbitration laws.

House Bill 45, introduced by Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, states “it shall be the public policy of this state to protect its citizens from the application of foreign laws when the application … will result in the violation of a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this state or of the United States.” The bill also would prevent arbitrators or tribunals from enforcing a foreign law that didn’t meet constitutional standards.

Jacobs, a lawyer and vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told the Fulton County Daily Report the bill would “ban the use of Sharia law in state courts.” He acknowledged that he was not aware of any instances in Georgia where a plaintiff or defendant asked the court to apply Sharia law but believes it has happened elsewhere.

“We’re seeing more of a feeling that Sharia law should be applied in domestic cases,” he said, such as divorces.

The chairman of the House Judiciary panel, Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, has signed on as a sponsor but hedged when asked whether he supports the bill.

“I want to see what comes up in hearings,” Willard said, to answer this question: “Does it serve a real purpose or is that standard [that federal and state laws trump foreign laws] already recognized by courts in the state?”

M. Khurram Baig, a litigator with Kumar, Prabhu, Patel & Banerjee in Atlanta and a member of the Georgia Association of Muslim Lawyers, said the answer is no: “I don’t know of any instance where foreign law has prevailed in a Georgia court ever. So why is this necessary?”

“On its face,” he added, the bill “sounds fairly benign, fairly neutral. But given the political climate and timing, it’s fair to say it brings to bear the popular concerns that Sharia law will infiltrate America and is part of the Islamaphobia wave.”

Jacobs said he disagrees with the accusation of Islamaphobia.

“The bills speaks for itself on its merits,” he said.

Supporters and critics have mentioned a 2010 case in New Jersey in which a Moroccan man accused of domestic violence claimed a religious right to have nonconsenual sex his wife. But the state’s appeals court overturned the ruling of a superior court judge that the husband engaged in conduct constituting sexual assault but did not have the requisite criminal intent in doing so, finding that the man’s cultural and religious beliefs did not trump state statutes outlawing rape.

William E. Raftery, a research analyst for the National Center for State Courts, is tracking similar legislation being considered in about seven other states.

The first was in Oklahoma, where legislators called for a referendum in November 2010 banning Islamic law in state courtrooms. More than two-thirds of voters there passed the measure, but a federal judge issued an injunction a few days later blocking it, finding it posed a First Amendment infringement.

Raftery says Georgia’s bill appears to be like a “cut and paste” of the ones drafted in Tennessee, Louisiana and South Carolina.

“There are two different flavors. One is like Oklahoma’s, which specifically mentions Sharia law and calls for a constitutional amendment and bars recognizing the law of other states if they adopt Sharia law,” Raftery said. “The other is like Tennessee’s, which was the first state to propose a statutory change and didn’t mention Sharia. It just says ‘foreign laws.’”

Isam Salah, head of King & Spalding’s Middle East and Islamic Finance Practice Group, said he views the bill as a fearful reaction to the Islamic faith but maintains it won’t directly affect his practice.

“All investment and financing agreements we are drafting are U.S. law-governed documents,” he said. “Clients sometimes come to us and say, ‘Can this transaction be under Georgia law with the provision that it also be subject to Sharia law?’ And we say no.”

But Salah said he is concerned that HB 45 would advance the view among some Americans “that anything that is Islamic-related is evil. And people hearing about this [in predominantly Muslim countries] could be saying, ‘Maybe the U.S. is not the most hospitable place for our investments.’”

Salah noted that in New York, where he practices, legislators are considering tweaking tax laws to make them more acceptable to Sharia-compliant investments, namely Islamic bonds called sukuk.

Jacobs said he understands the concern but believes “Georgia courts ought to be in the business of making sure the law applied in Georgia courts meets minimal constitutional standards.”

Michael J. Broyde, academic director of Emory University’s law and religion program, said he thinks “the consequences of the bill have not been well thought out” partly because its restrictions on arbitrators and choice of venue would “incapacitate Georgia companies as they engage in international commerce.”

A bigger problem, he added, is that the bill “violates the Federal Arbitration Act and becomes an unconstitutional exercise of state authority.”

“Arbitration is a routine business exercise by people who are prepared to sacrifice some of their constitutional rights in return for reduced cost and expediency,” said Broyde, who also is an ordained rabbi and member of the Beth Din of America — the largest Jewish law court in the country.

Banning people from “willingly submitting to an ecclesiastical tribunal” is “inconsistent with traditional American practice.”

Jacobs said he’s hoping to resolve any perceived problems in Judiciary Committee meetings.

“I’m certainly willing to hear from practitioners who have concerns about specific applications of the bill as it is introduced.”

 

South Dakota Considering Ban on Courts Using “Foreign Religious or Moral Code”

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on February 3, 2011 by loonwatch

South Dakota Considering Ban on Courts Using “Foreign Religious or Moral Code

(RightWingWatch)

In states like Wyoming and South Carolina, numerous state legislators are proposing measures to limit the application of “international” or “religious” laws in the court. An amendment that “forbids courts from considering or using international law” and “Sharia Law” passed easily in 2010, only to be blocked by a federal judge.

Now, it appears South Dakota is jumping on the bandwagon. The Republican-dominated State Legislature is considering House Joint Resolution 1004, which similar to the South Carolina resolution, uses broad language and does not explicitly mention Sharia law:

The judicial power of the state is vested in a unified judicial system consisting of a Supreme Court, circuit courts of general jurisdiction and courts of limited original jurisdiction as established by the Legislature. No such court may apply international law, the law of any foreign nation, or any foreign religious or moral code with the force of law in the adjudication of any case under its jurisdiction.

Twenty-eight members of the St