Oklahoma's Ban on Sharia Law Gains Traction in More States

  • January 28, 2011
  • By John Gramlich
Several states are weighing legislation that would ban international law from being applied in their courtrooms. The proposals come after Oklahoma voters approved a controversial November ballot measure targeting Islamic Sharia law, the body of law based on the Koran.

The National Center for State Courts, a nonpartisan court research organization, reports that lawmakers in six states - Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and Wyoming - recently have introduced legislation that would prevent courts from applying foreign law if it means American rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution are violated. Oklahoma itself is considering similar legislation, even though the ballot measure approved last year is now under legal review. And The Associated Press reports that lawmakers in South Carolina also will address the issue in their current session.

Of the states considering the legislation, Wyoming appears to go the furthest in specifically targeting Sharia law. The bill introduced in Cheyenne not only would prohibit use of Sharia, but would prohibit Wyoming courts from referencing the law of other states if those states apply Sharia, according to the National Center for State Courts.

The anti-Sharia measures are controversial because they are seen by some observers as targeting Muslims. In South Carolina, for example, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the state's bill is " more a statement about anti-Muslim sentiments than about serious legal issues, " the AP reports . Legal experts have questioned the need for such measures since the U.S. Constitution already trumps other laws - and certainly foreign ones - in court.

Oklahoma's anti-Sharia measure was blocked by a federal judge last year after a Muslim resident sued, contending that the law violated his American rights by "condemning" his faith.

"Today's Take" provides a quick analysis of the day's top news in state government.

Contact John Gramlich at jgramlich@stateline.org .



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