U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange on Thursday ruled that an amendment to the Oklahoma constitution that barred the use of Sharia law in Oklahoma courts violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which prohibits laws “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The amendment, which advocates called the “Save Our State” amendment, was very popular here in Oklahoma, gaining 70 percent approval in a November 2010 election.
However, the amendment never became part of the state constitution, because Judge Miles-LaGrange issued a temporary restraining order six days after the vote, preventing certification of the election results. She issued a preliminary injunction three weeks after that, and her ruling on Thursday made the injunction permanent.
To refresh your memory, the ballot title (summary) of the amendment said:
“It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.”
Of course, the courts already rely on federal and state law, so the essence was in forbidding courts to use Sharia law. Sharia is the moral and religious law of Islam. Sharia addresses a broad range of issues, including crime, politics, economics, sexual behavior, personal hygiene and diet. The primary source of Sharia law is the Quran.
Opponents of the amendment argued it was unnecessary, because federal and state law already govern the courts, and it is constitutionally impossible for Sharia law to ever supersede them.
Opponents also argued that the amendment did not seek to solve any existing problem, but was simply a political tool to target Muslims and stir up anti-Muslim sentiment. In her written opinion, Judge Miles-LaGrange noted that attorneys defending the amendment admitted that “they did not know of any instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law or used the legal precepts of other nations or cultures.”
Oklahoma was one of six states that passed such laws from 2010-2012. However, the other five states — Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota and Tennessee – passed laws that “have broader, more neutral language than the 2010 Oklahoma law and do not mention sharia or other religious laws by name,” according to the Pew Research Center. Those laws have not been challenged.
The handwriting was already on the wall about how Judge Miles-LaGrange would eventually rule, so Oklahoma lawmakers passed a new law earlier this year, House Bill 1060, patterned after the law in the other five states. That bill passed by wide margins in the Oklahoma House and Senate, was signed into law by Gov. Fallin in April and takes effect on Nov. 1.
By the way, in case you were wondering, about 1.6 billion people in the world are Muslims, comprising 23% of the world’s population, making Islam the second largest religion after Christianity, according to a December 2012 Pew Research Center report.
There are 3.5 million Muslims in the U.S. as of 2010, which means just 1.1 percent of U.S. citizens are Muslims.