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Over the Rainbow in Kansas, pt.2: Gov. Brownback Signs Bill Aimed at Blocking Sharia

Gov. Brownback has signed the bill passed by the Kansas legislature aimed at blocking “foreign law” (i.e. the non-existent “sharia threat”) in Kansas.

It will likely be challenged in Kansas courts:

Kan. gov. signs measure blocking Islamic law

BY JOHN HANNA (Kansas City Star)

TOPEKA, KAN. — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has signed a law aimed at keeping the state’s courts or government agencies from basing decisions on Islamic or other foreign legal codes, and a national Muslim group’s spokesman said Friday that a court challenge is likely.

The new law, taking effect July 1, doesn’t specifically mention Shariah law, which broadly refers to codes within the Islamic legal system. Instead, it says courts, administrative agencies or state tribunals can’t base rulings on any foreign law or legal system that would not grant the parties the same rights guaranteed by state and U.S. constitutions.

“This bill should provide protection for Kansas citizens from the application of foreign laws,” said Stephen Gele, spokesman for the American Public Policy Alliance, a Michigan group promoting model legislation similar to the new Kansas law. “The bill does not read, in any way, to be discriminatory against any religion.”

But supporters have worried specifically about Shariah law being applied in Kansas court cases, and the alliance says on its website that it wants to protect Americans’ freedoms from “infiltration” by foreign laws and legal doctrines, “especially Islamic Shariah Law.”

Brownback’s office notified the state Senate of his decision Friday, but he actually signed the measure Monday. The governor’s spokeswoman, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, said in a statement that the bill “makes it clear that Kansas courts will rely exclusively on the laws of our state and our nation when deciding cases and will not consider the laws of foreign jurisdictions.”

Muslim groups had urged Brownback to veto the measure, arguing that it promotes discrimination. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, said a court challenge is likely because supporters of the measure frequently expressed concern about Shariah law.

Hooper said of Brownback, “If he claims it has nothing to do with Shariah or Islamic law or Muslims, then he wasn’t paying attention.”

Both the Washington-based council and the National Conference of State Legislatures say such proposals have been considered in 20 states, including Kansas. Gele said laws similar to Kansas’ new statute have been enacted in Arizona, Louisiana and Tennessee.

Oklahoma voters approved a ballot initiative in 2010 that specifically mentioned Shariah law, but both a federal judge and a federal appeals court blocked it.

There are no known cases in which a Kansas judge has based a ruling on Islamic law. However, supporters of the bill have cited a pending case in Sedgwick County in which a man seeking to divorce his wife has asked for property to be divided under a marriage contract in line with Shariah law.

Supporters argue the measure simply ensures that legal decisions will protect long-cherished liberties, such as freedom of speech and religion and the right to equal treatment under the law. Gele said the measure would come into play if someone wanted to enforce a libel judgment against an American from a foreign nation without the same free speech protections.

“It is perfectly constitutional,” he said.

The House approved the bill unanimously and the Senate, with broad, bipartisan support. Even some legislators who were skeptical of it believed it was broad and bland enough that it didn’t represent a specific political attack on Muslims.

“This disturbing recent trend of activist judges relying upon the laws of other nations has been rejected by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the Kansas House and Senate,” Jones-Sontag said.

The measure’s chief sponsor, Rep. Peggy Mast, an Emporia Republican, also has said all Kansans, including Muslims, should be comfortable with the new law, but she did not immediately respond Friday to telephone and email messages seeking comment.

Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican, acknowledged that the measure merely “made some people happy” and that a vote against it could be cast politically as a vote in favor of Shariah law.

“Am I really concerned that Shariah law is going to take over the Kansas courts? No,” he said. “I’m more concerned about getting jobs to Kansas.”

The Michigan-based alliance advocates model “American Law for American Courts” legislation. Its website says, “America has unique values of liberty which do not exist in foreign legal systems, particularly Shariah Law.”

During the Kansas Senate’s debate on the bill earlier this month, Sen. Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican described a vote for the measure as a vote for women’s rights, adding, “They stone women to death in countries that have Shariah law.”

Hooper said supporters of such proposals have made it clear they are targeting Islamic law.

“Underlying all of this is demonizing Islam and marginalizing American Muslims,” he said.


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  • Susanna

    No religious law cannot trump criminal law in the US. But that does not mean that one’s 1st Amendment rights are violated. One has freedom of religion but cannot use that freedom as an excuse for any civil or criminal judgement in an American court of law if Constitutional rights would be violated. That is all that the ALAC bill states.

    The ALAC law simply upholds Article VI of The US Constitution thereby keeping activist judges from straying from the law.

  • HGG

    “Pernicious” is an excellent word to describe the law.

    Supporters of the bill seem to hide behind a facade of “neutrality”. The law, they say, doesn’t preclude the exercise of free religion guaranteed bu the Constitution. Jewish and Catholic courts are excluded, according to the American Thinker article JSB pointed out is extremely similar to Sussanah’s post (by some cosmic coincidence, I’m sure). But they keep coming back to shari’a as an example of a legal system that is incontrovertibly against the freedoms granted by the Constitution. No French, Canadian, Brazilian or English foreign laws that might clash with American laws are ever cited. It’s always shari’a.

    The implied statement is obviously that shari’a is inherently unamerican in its execution.

  • Benjamin Taghiov

    Much to the dismay of the Christian right, American Jews are more appreciative of Muslims.

    A study shows that American Jews, on a 1-100p scale, place Muslims substantially higher than their counter-part: the Christian right. On an average of 41.4p for Muslims, the Christian right side-slipes and is left with an avarage of 20.9p.

    This reflects that American Jews are essentially more negatively disposed towards the CR, and that Muslim-Americans are generally considered to be congenial. On the subject of “shari’ah courts”, 76% discard the notion of a creeping shift of judicial paradigm, contrasting the 22% that do.

    Read the full survey here:

  • Just Stopping By

    @Ilisha says, “Redundant, irrelevant, pernicious….I don’t need a thesaurus to know it’s bigotry.” Agreed!

  • Just Stopping By

    @Ilisha: This law is not redundant; it is pernicious.

    I will excerpt from my prior quote from the law as follows: ““Any … arbitration … decision shall violate the public policy of this state and be void and unenforceable if the … arbitration… bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any … system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights and privileges granted under the United States and Kansas constitutions, …”

    So, if X and Y go into business and agree that any later disputes will be handled by an arbitration panel following Islamic law, the result might be considered unenforceable. If Z wants any uncertainties in his will to be settled by a mufti using shari’a, that may be called into question. (And not all such uncertainties can be known in advance, which is why we have cases where people challenge the execution of a will.)

    Basically, if a court in Kansas decides that shari’a is inconsistent with rights granted in Kansas or U.S. law, Kansas would not enforce a decision based on shari’a, even if the decision was made pursuant to a decision by private parties or citizens to voluntarily settle current or future disputes in that manner. Currently, if parties agree to binding arbitration, then typically (putting aside issues such as bribing an arbitrator), the decision will be enforced by the government if one party tries to weasel out of it.

    In any event, I certainly agree with your comment that the “Islamic hoopla” and “Muslim outrage” has all been verbal and legal, and these responses are examples of Americans, including Muslims and their supporters, behaving at their very best under our system. The moves to counter this law are not “hoopla,” but America at its finest.

  • Proverb

    Man, this is much ado about nothing. I must wonder why all the Islamic hoopla over this. On the face of it, the law seems to present a position that is “trite” in Constitutional democracies, which leads me to question Muslim outrage over this, as:

    1. The law does not single out or target a specific religion;

    2. I would assume that if US judges are sane, they would not care one iota whether someone or some official stated that the law would curtail Shariah. This is largely irrelevant as the law itself does not specify Shariah. Furthermore, a bench that is mindful of its Constitutional obligation would not strike down a law on the basis of such comments, when the law is neutral;

    3. In any Constitutional democracy with a respectable Constitution, Muslims have no automatic entitlement to exercise Shariah (even in private contracts), as the Constitution would have automatic horizontal application between citizens and would trump any provision that violates the rights enshrined in the Constitution. In simple English: sane Constitutional jurisprudence does not accept that human rights guaranteed in the Constitution can be contracted out of simply on the basis that the parties agreed to Shariah. Any aspect of Shariah law is subject to Constitutional challenge;

    4. Furthermore, a sane judge should simply point out the obvious to any disgruntled Muslim applicant: while the law guarantees freedom of religion (which right is NOT absolute in law), it correctly imposes an obligation to reject any aspect of religious law which diminishes the rights granted/protected by US law; and

    5. The sane judge should also follow this ruling with a cost order against the applicant for bringing such a frivolous suit before the court….

  • RationalSkeptic

    This is taken from the American Public Policy Alliance’s website:

    Jewish Law and Catholic Canon Law

    Many who defend rulings that follow Islamic doctrine or sharia make spurious comparisons to Jewish law and Catholic Canon law. These comparisons are disingenuous because the distinctions couldn’t be more striking between sharia and the laws of Jews and Catholics.

    Islamic law or sharia is supremacist and triumphalist. The Koran commands Muslims to change secular laws to conform to sharia or to impose sharia worldwide. In Muslim countries, the mosque is both the state and the court. Disobeying sharia can be punished by flogging or death.

    By contrast, Jewish (Halacha) and Catholic Canon laws are never imposed even for Jews and Catholics, respectively. Under Jewish law and Canon law, any two parties in a dispute can choose to seek and follow a decision rendered by a religious court, but they are always free to pursue secular redress. In fact, Jews and Catholics are required to follow secular law and are under no obligation whatsoever to abide by Jewish or Catholic Church doctrine. The dictum in Jewish law of “Dina d’malchuta dina” translates to “the law of the land is law” and recognizes non-Jewish laws and non-Jewish legal jurisdiction as binding on Jewish citizens. Jewish law does not operate under a supremacist power structure like Islamic doctrine. It is unenforceable, and it is not a replacement for constitutional law.

    In contradiction to Church doctrine, Catholic men and women can freely initiate divorces without fear of punishment. A Catholic woman can even have an abortion, although abortion is condemned by the Catholic Church. Catholics can be excommunicated from the church, but this doesn’t affect their individual liberties or impose criminal punishments or penalties.

    Unlike Islamic sharia, Jewish law and Canon law have no provisions for taking lives, criminal penalties, or monetary compensation for non-money damages. No doctrinal basis exists to create a worldwide Jewish or Catholic government like an Islamic caliphate, nor is there a religious mandate for martyrdom similar to a jihad to fulfill Judaic or Catholic devotion. If a Catholic woman engaged in an extramarital affair, she would not be sentenced to death by stoning as she would be under Islamic doctrine. If her father or brother murdered her for her impropriety, they would be incarcerated for life or receive the death penalty by the appropriate authorities…and certainly not be praised for maintaining family honor, as is the case with sharia. Catholics and Jews are free to change their religions without the threat of punishment by death faced by Muslims.

    While sharia is immutable, Jewish and Canon law has evolved over time to embrace new interpretations. Jewish law allows the latitude for judicial discretion, and innovations are frequently proposed and instituted. Catholic Canon has also changed with varying circumstances and has a rich historic basis of evolution, beginning with the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.

    Clearly, sharia is at odds with everything enshrined in our Constitution to honor and preserve individual liberties and freedom. Sharia stands in opposition to equal protection under the law for both sexes, all religions, all races, and all ethnicities. Ultimately, it replaces the constitution with the objective of submitting to Allah’s law, which denies freedom, equality, tolerance, and justice.

    Unfortunately, the United States is now on a slippery slope to allow sharia quarter in our American courtrooms. To permit this insidious divergence from U.S. and state law threatens the basic principles and liberties that Americans hold dear. In essence, sharia law is antithetical to the American concepts of freedom and equality.

    Read more:

    My response: Complete and utter bullshit. Islamic law is oppressive, without a doubt, but to say that comparisons between Islamic law and Judeo-Christian law are spurious is indeed ridiculous. The religious codes of all three religions are oppressive. And in no way, shape, or form, must they be tolerated in the USA. Period.

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