By Sam Levin
Late one evening last month, in one fell swoop at the end of the legislative session, Missouri lawmakers passed three conservative bills that earned the state a bit of national mockery: A bill to block all federal gun control, legislation torestrict a 1992 United Nations green development pledge — and a proposal to ban the enforcement of Sharia Law, the religious law of Islam. For some Republicans, it was a historic night of many feats. For others, it was, at the least, quite puzzling.
Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, now has the task of reviewing these bills and took the step yesterday of publicly shooting down the latter one aimed at protecting Missourians from Islamic religious law — which, as critics point out, is not exactly a real threat.
In fact, according to Nixon, the bill is not only pointless, but it could have a serious unintended consequence.
The bill in question is Senate Bill 267, sponsored by Republican State Senator Brian Nieves and officially called the “Civil Liberties Defense Act.” The legislation, as written, establishes that the state must “protect its citizens from the application of foreign laws when the application of a foreign law will result in the violation of a right protected by the constitutions of the state of Missouri and the United States, including, but not limited to, due process, freedom of religion, speech, or press, and any right of privacy.”
It does not directly mention Sharia Law, but as we noted when the proposal was first debated, the language of the bill very closely mirrors anti-Islamic law bills that have cropped around the country and originate with controversial individuals intent on presenting this religion as a threat to American freedom.
(And bizarre, anti-Islam rhetoric is not totally uncommon at the Capitol).
Nixon, however, focused on a problem that he says the bill could create — that is, an obstacle to foreign adoptions in Missouri.
The governor, who came to Lutheran Family & Children’s Services in St. Louis to formally veto the bill yesterday afternoon, says in a statement:
This legislation seeks to solve a problem that does not exist, while creating the very real problem of jeopardizing Missouri’s families’ ability to adopt children from foreign countries. Here in Missouri, we believe in strengthening families and encouraging adoption. By placing additional barriers between couples who want to adopt and children who need loving homes, Senate Bill 267 is quite simply out of step with these basic values.
In other words, it could further complicate the process couples face when adopting children from foreign countries that have legal systems that are inconsistent with ours.
The bill, which doesn’t mention adoptions directly, could open the adoption process up to unnecessary challenges, critics say.
From 1999 through 2011, the most recent year of available data, Missouri families have adopted 5,852 children born outside of the U.S., Nixon also notes.
Nieves took to his Facebook page to slam the governor’s veto with a characteristically colorful rant that says, in part:
I’ve attached the link to the bill so you all can show the governor you are smarter than him by actually reading it! If you read the bill and then read his made up, silly excuse as to why he vetoed it, you almost have to laugh! Sad thing is… It’s NOT funny! A sitting governor should not allow lies and untruths to be the basis of their action!