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Oklahoma’s Shariah Law Ban Is Unconstitutional & Gone for Good


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Oklahoma’s Shariah Law Ban Is Unconstitutional & Gone for Good

(CN) – Oklahoma’s attempt to “specifically target and outlaw Shariah,” or Islamic law, is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange in Oklahoma City permanently blocked state officials from certifying the 2010 election results for the so-called “Save Our State Amendment,” which “forbids courts from considering or using international law [and] Shariah law” when deciding cases.

Seventy percent of voters approved the constitutional amendment on Nov. 2, 2010. It had been placed on the ballot after state lawmakers passed a similar measure, House Joint Resolution 1056, about six months earlier.

Two days after the election, Muneer Awad, the former head of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK), challenged the amendment’s constitutionality in federal court.

He called the amendment “ridiculous” and a “gross transgression of the Establishment Clause,” as it could void legal contracts between Muslims, though courts are allowed to consider the traditions of other religions. He said no other state constitution “attaches special burdens on a religious tradition.”

“The goal was to stigmatize Islam by establishing in the public’s mind that Islam is something foreign and to be feared,” Awad argued in his motion for a preliminary injunction.

Miles-LaGrange granted a temporary restraining order on Nov. 9, followed by apreliminary injunction a few weeks later, after the judge said she needed more time to decide.

The 10th Circuit upheld that injunction in 2012, citing the state’s failure to identify a “compelling interest based on an actual problem.”

A few more plaintiffs have since been added to the amended complaint, including two Muslim faculty members at the University of Oklahoma and CAIR-OK’s current executive director, Adam Soltani. Awad moved to Manhattan last August for a job with another CAIR affiliate.

Miles-LaGrange made her preliminary injunction permanent on Thursday, saying the state “failed to assert a compelling state interest” for singling out Shariah law in its courts. This violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars the government from endorsing a particular religion, she wrote.

The amendment cannot be salvaged by severing the references to Shariah law, she said, because its whole purpose was to ban Islamic law.

“Having reviewed the numerous statements by the legislators who authored the amendment, it is abundantly clear that the primary purpose of the amendment was to specifically target and outlaw Shariah law and to act as a preemptive strike against Shariah law to protect Oklahoma from a perceived ‘threat’ of Shariah law being utilized in Oklahoma courts,” she wrote.

She said voters approved it for the same reason — as a “referendum on Shariah law” — because all public debate, radio ads, robocalls and articles “primarily and overwhelmingly” focused on the Shariah provisions.

“While the public has an interest in the will of the voters being carried out, the court finds that the public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual’s constitutional rights,” Miles-LaGrange concluded.

The American Civil Liberties Union and CAIR issued a press release saying the judge “got it right.”

“We’re very pleased with the result, which will help secure religious freedom and equality for all Oklahomans,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “Throughout the case, the state couldn’t present even a shred of evidence to justify this discriminatory, unnecessary measure.”

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    • Richard

      The law was absurd and unsustainable in any court. Had it been upheld, there would have been intolerable unintended consequences, too — the strange wording probably would have made it impossible to enforce any foreign civil judgements in the state. But you’re fooling yourself if you think the issue is “gone for good”. Some forces in the Muslim community really do want to compel Muslims to answer to Sharia courts rather than civil courts for a variety of issues, especially social issues like marriage. That, in turn, elicits anxiety from both secular liberals and the Christian Right, and could well result in legislation affirming the monopoly of the secular judiciary.

    • Jon Diamond

      The fact that the bloodiest terrorist attack done by an American, Timothy McVeigh, was done here, they should know better.

      Better yet, they should concentrate on building better tornado shelters at schools, so children don’t die in large numbers like they did recently.

    • Reynardine

      Then it would be struck down for vagueness.

    • CriticalDragon1177

      I know, which I think kind of supports my point. They’d have to make it so vague that you probably couldn’t even tell what they were talking about.

    • Reynardine

      Mr. Whitaker actually put in a personal appearance at Hatewatch, so upset was he at the working-over his little bunnies were getting. He shur cud reed an spel gud.

    • Reynardine

      When the language is broadened to include *any* consideration of international law, then they are running afoul of the Pre-emption Clause of the United States Constitution. States cannot conduct international relations, denounce treaties in whole or in part, or in any way or form interfere with the prerogative to do so of the United States government.

    • CriticalDragon1177

      This will upset them, unfortunately the reaction from some of them could be much worse than that. I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if one of them threatened the life of the the judge.

    • mindy1

      thanks-we are not all morons

    • mindy1

      Thank god they decided that, but to think of all the tax payer time and money wasted on that crap… >:(

    • CriticalDragon1177

      Which is what I’m worried they’re try to do next. Than again if they make it vague enough that its something the court might not find unconstitutional, it might have to be a law that actually does nothing at all.

    • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

      They’ve been more successful when they have had broader language in other state bills.

    • Tanveer Khan

      An example of the brighter side of America.

    • CriticalDragon1177


      Thank God for that! Lets hope they don’t try to pass something similar but with different language thinking that they can make the court think it passes constitutional muster if they just change the wording.

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