The state of anti-sharia bills

Earlier this month, before the furor over several proposed abortion bills threw Virginia into the national spotlight, another controversial bill … Continued

Earlier this month, before the furor over several proposed abortion bills threw Virginia into the national spotlight, another controversial bill began moving in the House of Delegates.

House Bill 825 proposes to ban the use of any legal code established outside the United States in U.S. courtrooms. While it is largely understood that the primary target of the legislation was sharia, or Islamic law, the expansive bill has drawn unexpected criticism from other groups that are concerned that, as written, it could easily be interpreted to ban the use of halacha, Jewish law, and other Catholic canon laws. Muslim advocates had already condemned the bill, as they’ve done with the dozens of state-level bills that have explicitly or implicitly targeted Islamic law. But Jewish groups were also speaking out, saying that the law could limit their ability to settle family matters like wills and divorces according to their religious guidelines. Catholic officials also voiced concerns that bills like these could prevent the Roman Catholic Church (based in Italy) from owning parish buildings and schools. Business leaders also added their voices to the clamor against the bill, citing concerns that it could hurt international business relations. Deciding to reevaluate their approach, the bill’s proponents sent the bill back to committee.

State lawmakers around the country have proposed bills to effectively make sharia law illegal.

Virginia is just one of two dozen states with bans on foreign laws moving in their legislature. Last week, a similar bill made its way out of Florida’s House Judiciary Committee, amid protests from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Florida Bar’s Family Association, and the ACLU. A third measure preventing the use of foreign law in U.S. courtrooms headed toward a vote in the Georgia House of Representatives.

But as the debate in Virginia shows, the tide could be changing. Lawmakers have had to revamp their approach since an Appeals court struck down Oklahoma’s earlier version as discriminatory for specifically mentioning sharia law. In order to pass constitutional muster, the new bills are written with broad-strokes prohibitions, which have had the unintended effect of drawing other religious groups and business interests into the fray.

Public opinion is also shifting. While these legal challenges evolved, Americans’ concerns about the threat that sharia law’s threat to the American legal system have fluctuated considerably, largely in response to public events that captured national attention. A year ago, when Rep. Peter King’s congressional hearings on alleged radicalization among American Muslims, 23 percent of Americans agreed that American Muslims want to establish sharia as the law of the land in the U.S. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) disagreed, while 13 percent said they did not know. In September 2011, near the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and amidst debates around the Park 51 Community Center and Mosque in Manhattan, which opponents dubbed the “ground-zero mosque,” this number rose to nearly one-third (30 percent) of the general population. Over six-in-10 (61 percent) disagreed, while 8 percent said they did not know.

Over the few months, though, these issues have had a much lower media profile. And in the absence of prominent national stimuli, concerns about the threat of sharia have dropped by more than half since September. PRRI’s February 2012 Religion and Politics Tracking Survey showed only 14 percent of Americans agree that American Muslims want to establish sharia or Islamic law as law of the land. More than two-thirds (68 percent) disagree, and nearly 1-in-5 (17 percent) say they do not know.

These two trends suggest that, despite early momentum, the sponsors of anti-sharia legislation may have an uphill battle ahead of them. By widening the bills’ scope to include all laws that originate outside the U.S., sponsors of anti-sharia legislation are wading more deeply into the waters of religious liberty. Given that 88 percent of Americans agree that the U.S. was founded on the idea of religious freedom for everyone, including religious groups that are unpopular, fighting these legislative battles openly on religious liberty terrain may be difficult. It certainly won’t help that the current bills are being considered at a time when Americans’ concerns about the threat of sharia law have ebbed.

Robert P. Jones
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  • BayouRod

    No woman should be stoned to death because she was unable to find four men to testify that she was raped.

    All Americans should fully share in the protections of American law. Regardless of how politically incorrect that may seem to enlightened liberals.

  • cricket44

    No, and she shouldn’t have to endure state-mandated object rape either, which was almost the case.

    How funny to worry about Sharia law and women while our good ol’ boy so-called “Christian” politicians are doing their utmost to suppress women’s rights themselves.

  • Fartortuga3

    This “controversy” never had any basis in objective reality. Proponents of anti-Sharia laws could never point to any pending legislation seeking to sanction it or cite any U.S. jurisdiction that sanctioned its use. The emphasis on banning laws originating overseas will have hilarious consequences at the Federal and state levels since the legal systems of the eastern states, that were once British colonies, are based upon English Common Law. At the Federal level the problem lies with Louisiana. Its legal system originated in Napoleonic France and is thus referred to as the Napoleonic Code.

  • TopTurtle

    BayouRed,

    Yes, women shouldn’t be stoned. That’s why we have laws against murder. A few people agreeing to settle civil matters according to a code of their choice wouldn’t change that.

  • ThomasBaum

    Could “objective reality” be to actually look beyond the USA and see what is happening in other parts of the world?

  • Kingofkings1

    Focusing on sharia while leaving the catholic canon or jewish halacha would be illogical to say the least, while also being unconstitutional and unethical

  • LilannB

    A Pennsylvania judge recently dismissed the case of a Muslim who assaulted an atheist for wearing a zombie Mohammed costume. The judge noted the Muslim’s faith rather then requiring the Muslim to obey the US Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech even if that speech is offensive.In another notorious case a Muslim who had been accused of raping his wife was acquitted in that case the Muslims faith was noted. Sharia law as practiced in parts of the Islamic world allows for the stoning of adulterers, the whipping and imprisonment of rape victims and the exectution of those who criticize Islam or who choose to leave Islam for no faith or another faith.Sharia is also unique in that Muslims seek to impose Sharia on non-Mulims. That is why Sharia is dangerous and must be opposed in all free societies.

  • ThomasBaum

    If by this you mean that religious law, no matter what the religion, has no place in the law system of the USA, I agree, no religious law should be forced on anyone.

  • ThomasBaum

    Islam is about world domination and if one actually listens or reads to what is said and written concerning islam and it’s law, this comes thru loud and clear.

    I suppose if one has their head buried in the sand or is pc correct to a fault they might miss it.

  • BayouRod

    I’ve never heard of a court applying Catholic or Jewish law, or of basing any decision on a person being Catholic or Jewish.

    This is simply another case of politic correctness replacing fact based decisions.

  • BayouRod

    No. I want to live under the laws passed by my state and federal elected representatives. If Congress wants to prohibit women from driving I will abide by that. But I will not forget to vote next election.

    I don’t care what the laws are in other nations.

  • BayouRod

    One would expect the National Organization for Women to be out front in opposing Sharia law. Their silence just confirms that they aren’t as interested in the welfare of women as they are in getting Democrat men elected.

  • masmanz

    Those laws are applied everyday. You have not heard it because there are no hatemongers targeting those communities.

  • ThomasBaum

    BayouRod

    You wrote, “If Congress wants to prohibit women from driving I will abide by that.”

    Are you serious?

    If Congress wants to prohibit men from driving will you abide by that?

  • masmanz

    The reason to dismiss the case is explained by the judge in the last sentence — “He has not proven to me beyond a reasonable doubt that this defendant is guilty of harassment, therefore I am going to dismiss the charge”

    That is US constitution — Innocent until proven guilty. The first part of his judgement is just common sense, nothing to do with any Sharia law.

  • masmanz

    Don’t feed the monster of hate, or it can come and get you. Simple law of Karma. But, looking at many of the hate spewing posts against a tiny minority I can see that many people are willing to keep on feeding the monster. Unfortunately.

  • persiflage

    The preemptive move against a non-existent Sharia Law is 100% a republican initiative, wherever it may be found. This puts already-tenuous Muslims in the gunsights, and distracts voters from the fact that the GOP offers nothing but divisiveness and discontent – with the hope of capturing control of the government.

    Everyone knows that civil law is the only law that counts in a courtroom – otherwise, so-called traditional rules and regulations that remain voluntary and that don’t otherwise preempt or violate civil laws are really a freedom of religion sort of thing.

    No one says anything in particular about the peculiarites or doctrines of other faiths, other than the recent tempest in a teapot over the contraception idiocy – one of the more brainless, backward ideas still being pushed by the Catholic hierarchy.

    As far as anyone knows, there is no organized movement among Muslims to
    cast Sharia Law as an alternative to civil laws. Until that time, the business of demonizing Sharia Law in the USA is purely a political move with political motives. The fact is, this issue will never see the light of day, and is just another distraction conjured up by the GOP – in lieu of real ideas.

  • Kingofkings1

    Is the American legal system derived from scratch – or was there a foreign power on which it was modeled?

    The state can legislate and attempt to be just – but is it the state’s duty to legislate what you should say before you eat? or how you clean yourself in the bathroom?

  • Kingofkings1

    The constitution gives one the right to say whatever he wants – including cursing your enemy’s mother, but if your enemy deecides to punch you in the nose, the law also takes the instigation into account

  • larryclyons

    The American system is derived from British statute and common law. The British system was also not derived from a christian based one but a pagan germanic system.

    One way to look at it is how the Constitution’s preample is considered. The clause about providing for the general welfare could be interpreted as grounds for requiring minimal standards of cleanliness.

  • larryclyons

    Funny thing, they also happen to support the Constitution. From your comments you are against the separation clause. why do you hate America so?

  • grdnabel

    To Judge Mark Martin of Pennsylvania: In the U.S.A., blasphemy is not a criminal or civil offense. Niether is “cultural insensitivity”. I wonder how many of those protesting the accidental incineration of those Korans in Afghanistan can acually read the Koran? It is Muslims like that who tarnish the religion of Islam. Pehaps they should be taught to be “Politically Correct”? But as long as there continues to be violent over-reactions (such as assasinations of cartoonists, property destroying riots, or simply punching out an infidel in a truban) to precived blasphemies, adherents to Islam will in the eyes of the world will continue to be considered backward and barbaric people. Particularly by those who are likewise uneducated and uninformed.

    Gordon B. Abel,
    Minneapolis, Mn.

  • Kingofkings1

    grdnabel,
    You missed my point. Please re-read my last post.
    If someone curses your mother, most people lose their judgment and probably over-react. That is probably the reason mother—— is an overutilized term on the street and used to provoke someone to overreact

  • shanti2

    Thomas;Christianity is about world domination too. The main difference is that Christian countries have the capacity to dominate the world and Muslim countries do not.