Oklahoma’s Judeo-Christian Law amendment measure

Jeff Musall has it about right in his (subtly-titled) opinion piece, “Oklahoma’s ‘Save Our State’ amendment to ban Sharia law is abominable.”

Here is the news release from the Oklahoma legislature:

States News Service
May 25, 2010 Tuesday

LAWMAKERS ASK VOTERS: SHOULD FOREIGN COURT RULINGS IMPACT OKLAHOMANS’ RIGHTS?

DATELINE: OKLAHOMA CITY, OK

The following information was released by the Oklahoma House of Representatives:

State Rep. Rex Duncan today praised lawmakers for sending voters a proposal that, if approved on Nov. 2, would prevent judicial rulings in foreign countries from impacting local court decisions.

Oklahoma will be the first state in the nation to pass such legislation, but I think others will follow our lead, Duncan, R-Sand Springs, said. Judges in other states and on the federal bench have increasingly turned to citing international law in their court decisions, something I and others feel is grossly inappropriate in a sovereign state such as our own.

House Joint Resolution 1056, by Duncan and state Sen. Anthony Sykes, was approved by the Oklahoma Senate by a vote of 41-2, sending the Save Our State constitutional amendment to the attorney generals office to assign a state question number for Oklahoma voters this fall.

The proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution would require the courts to uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the United States Constitution, the Oklahoma Constitution, the United States Code and federal regulations, Oklahoma Statutes and rules, and established common law.

Oklahomans should not have to worry that their rights could be undermined by foreign court rulings in countries that do not have our respect for individual liberty and justice for all, said Duncan, an attorney who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. Our nations laws were developed through a democratic process and should not be negated by an irresponsible judges haphazard reliance on foreign rulings developed in autocratic societies. Oklahoma court decisions should be based on the U.S. Constitution, Oklahoma Constitution, and our state and national laws period.

I have grown concerned with the increasing number of legal decisions where foreign law has been relied on or mentioned in the ruling, said Sykes. By passing this constitutional amendment, Oklahomans can ensure that such decisions have no place in our courts.

The proposed amendment would prohibit all Oklahoma courts from considering the legal precepts of other nations or cultures, even in cases of first impression.

The proposed amendment declares that courts shall not consider international law or Sharia Law.

Note: For accompanying video: http://www.okhouse.tv/ViewVideo.aspx?VideoID=286

Copyright 2010 States News Service

Here is the video linked from the press release:

As Musall observes:

Make no mistake, the fundamentalists in Oklahoma aren’t looking for secular law to be protected from religious influence. They just want it to be their religion to bring the theocracy.

Contessa Brewer drew this point out clearly in her interview [MSNBC News Live, 11 June 2010] when she asked if the concern would not be to preempt any religious law from governing what should be governed by secular law. Listen for that point in this interview of Rex Duncan (R), co-sponsor in the Oklahoma Senate:

Instead of an amendment that would prohibit use of ANY religious law (Islamic, Christian, or whatever) as the basis of judicial decision making (which would be redundant, since the First Amendment already does that), the discourse behind this law presupposes that Oklahoma and US Federal Law are based on Judeo-Christian law (or “principles”), so that “International Law” gets wrapped up in the same evil burrito with “Sharia Law,” as one form of an alarming threat to the very sovereignty of the United States.

This is continuous with the discourse behind recent changes in the Texas Social Studies standards; for example, this from Donald McLeroy, DDS (acting here after being removed as Chair by the Texas legislature, and being defeated for reelection in his GOP primary):

(Incidentally, the expert testifier McLeroy cites here in support of his amendment is one MerryLynn Gerstenschlager, a “lobbyist and Education Liaison” for the Texas affiliate of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum. For those who think of Schlafly as a domestic social-issues activist, this might seem a bit out of her field of play; but those of us who are old enough recognize that she’s returning, here, to her original campaigning against the threat to US sovereignty posed by mainstream Republicans whose despicable openness to international interests was exposed in her earliest books such as Grave Diggers and The Betrayers.)

While it is all well and good to denounce the anti-UN and anti-World Texas social studies standards, those standards are probably pretty harmless in comparison with the potential impact of this Oklahoma ballot initiative. Less conscientious Texas students won’t remember what they were told about sovereignty and the United Nations, and the more conscious students will know that this is a load of crap dumped into the standards by a cabal of right-wing ideologues who had already been rejected by the voters when they did their mischief.

Consider, by contrast, the diabolical cleverness of this ballot initiative. The question of voting “for” or “against” presupposes the reality of the threat, and asks voters only if they want to vote against the threat, or not. Who is going to campaign against prohibiting the imposition of Sharia Law in Oklahoma? If the opposition is not done very skillfully, it could just help to publicize the “for or against” ballot question, without calling attention to the prior question of what’s true, and what is false, about existing or prospective realities.

More background:

I need to quit now, and start doing something less unpleasant — like prepping for my Monday colonoscopy!

11 Comments

  1. Posted June 12, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Every state should ban Sharia Law. It is the anti-thesis of America, and unconstitutional.

    • Posted June 12, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

      Yes, as noted in my post, it is unconstitutional in the US for courts to base decisions on religious law — any religious law — which is why there is no need for any state to do this.

      The effect of the campaign will be only to deceive people into thinking that judicial imposition of religious law is not already unconstitutional.

      • Posted June 12, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

        Of course there is a need for it, as US courts have used Sharia, and this will stop Muslims from opening Sharia Courts. It also sends a strong message to pro-Sharia Muslims. The effect of the campaign, will be a nail in the coffin of Sharia in America.

        • Posted June 13, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

          Can you supply examples of US courts reaching legal decisions based on Sharia law as legal authority for the decision? The U.S. Constitution does not authorize this. It’s not how our legal system works. Our legal systems recognizes authority in Constitutional, statutory, and common law. Anything else is not legal authority, even without the First Amendment prohibition against any religious establishment.

          As for Sharia courts, the amendment would no more stop them from functioning in the private sphere than it would stop Catholics from having Canon Law courts in the private sphere. The Free Exercise Clause would provide some protection for such private religious institutions in either case. Of course, private religious courts would not preempt the civil authority of public law, in either case (as the Catholic Church is finding out).

          If you have cases of US Courts applying Sharia law already posted on your blog, I suggest linking to them from a further comment here. If not, please go ahead and post them on your blog, then link from here.

          If a U.S. Court ever actually did that (which I cannot imagine them doing), it would be easily overturned on appeal. Sharia law has no authority, as law, in our judicial system — with or without any mischievously deceptive ballot initiatives.

          • Posted June 13, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

            Hi Tony,
            Here you go.

            http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/saudi_sharia_laws_applied_in_us_courts/comment-page-1/

            What OK is doing also helps awaken, the country to the threat of the Sharia movement.

            • Posted June 13, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

              In those cases the courts were enforcing contract law. Aspects of Sharia adjudication may have been incorporated into the private contracts that the courts were interpreting; but the authority was the authority of the private contracts, under the US state laws, not any legal authority, as such, of Sharia.

              The Oklahoma amendment, as proposed, would not prohibit private parties from entering into contracts such as this, nor prohibit state courts from enforcing the terms of such contracts.

              • Posted June 13, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

                Sharia is still creeping into our lives, and courts. I have to applaud any politician that has the guts to take a stand against it.
                We are not winning this was, as the the political aspect of Islam is walking across America. We need all the help that we can get.

                • Posted June 13, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

                  I’m certainly opposed to public courts imposing Sharia, or any other theocratic legal system; and it does appear that Sharia can be more inhumane than some others are today (although I’m not sure how it would compare with those Puritan colonies in Massachusetts just 350 years ago).

                  But the OK ballot measure will not bring light and truth to these issues, however; it will only sow confusion and ignorance of our legal system.

                  • Posted June 13, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

                    I respectfully disagree, this ballot shines a light on the threat of Sharia.

  2. Posted June 13, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps my comments will clarify this issue. As Tony Whitson says, it is unconstitutional in the U.S. for courts to base decisions on religious law since our Constitution is secular and thus our government including courts are secular. So a law prohibiting Sharia law as in Oklahoma is redundant, unnecessary, and therefore prejudicial and bigoted since it singles out a law system associated with a specific religion. This is not the first time Oklahoma lawmakers have written bigoted laws.

    Laws are ambiguous, which is why we need courts and regulatory agencies to clarify them. Statutory laws are passed by legislative bodies and signed by the executive but they are not the only laws. Treaties are also law, signed by the president and ratified by the Senate. The U.S. has signed several treaties banning torture, for example, which is why the previous administration broke our country’s law when it tortured terrorists. Federal and state agencies must write rules and regulations to implement statutory laws and these rules and regulations, known as regulatory law, have the full force of law. All these laws often conflict or cannot be interpreted easily, which is why appeal courts must make decisions about the laws. Their decisions become law. The Supreme Court, our nation’s highest appeals court, has recently used foreign and international laws to help explain and justify their majority decisions. This use is controversial but not unconstitutional since the foreign and international laws are used to explicate and clarify standing statutory laws, not serve as U.S. laws themselves. The right-wing in our country has opposed the use of international laws as examples in judicial decisions (since many of these laws prohibit many of the things that right-wing public officials hold dear, such as gun ownership, torture, death penalty, etc.).

    This is perhaps one source of the right-wing animus against Sharia law. But the biggest source is simple bigotry. I have listened to many right-wing people where I live in West Texas speak against Arabs and Moslems with the same vehemence, hatred, and bigotry they once used against Blacks and Mexicans (they are still bigoted against African- and Hispanic-Americans but not the same extent as previously; Moslems now fulfill that role). Basically, right-wing Oklahomans are afraid of the losing their “liberties” if any court expressed accommodation for Sharia law (as some foreign courts actually have), ignoring the fact that their own extreme Christian religions impose many of the same restrictions on liberty that Sharia law imposes on the people under its control. All religious laws are bad because most restrictions fall on women and punishments for non-compliance are cruel and extreme. Just read the Old Testament to find out the punishments advocated by fundamentalist Christians today. Tony and I would be burned at the stake or stoned to death.

  3. Benah
    Posted July 7, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I stand with all states to prevent the shariah’fungus’ from taking root. I plan to contact my reps. in Austin and Texas Attorney General, as many people we talk with have same thinking.

    God Bless You,

    Benah


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