An Oklahoma initiative that bars state judges there from considering Islamic law in court decisions came in for a barrage of questioning at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Monday, in a case that could have national implications.
The controversy focuses on a measure voters in Oklahoma overwhelmingly approved last year. The measure prevents judges from basing rulings in any way on international law and then mentions Islamic law — known as Shariah — specifically.
Oklahoma is the only state to pass such an initiative, but opponents of the law say lawmakers in at least 20 other states have considered or are considering similar measures.
A three-judge panel of federal 10th Circuit judges on Monday repeatedly asked Patrick Wyrick, Oklahoma's solicitor general, why Shariah law was singled out and whether that amounts to discrimination against Muslims.
"Doesn't it disfavor Islam as a religion?" Judge Scott Matheson Jr. asked.
Wyrick responded that it doesn't because the initiative is intended only to apply to aspects of Shariah that would claim legal precedence.
But opponents of the initiative — who filed suit last year to block its certification — say the law denies Muslims rights that would be afforded to people of other religions.
For instance, Muneer Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma and the suit's plaintiff, said the law would invalidate certain civil documents, such as wills.
His own will, Awad said, instructs a judge to refer to specific Islamic precepts to resolve situations where Awad's intent is not clear. Awad argues that the initiative would block a judge from doing that, even though he says a judge would be able to do that for someone of Christian or Jewish faith.
Micheal Salem, the attorney representing Awad, said the initiative was a "pre-emptive strike" against one religion and was passed out of fear of Islam.
"Once it is certified, this law will condemn every Muslim in the state of Oklahoma," Salem argued. "They will no longer be welcome."
A federal district court judge in Oklahoma has already temporarily blocked the initiative's certification, a ruling Oklahoma's election board appealed to the 10th Circuit.
The 10th Circuit judges Monday quizzed Salem about whether this was the right time to challenge the constitutionality of the initiative, before it has even officially become law.
Salem said the law's certification would cause immediate harm to Oklahoma's Muslims, who amount to less than 1 percent of the state's population.
Wyrick, meanwhile, said the initiative is not discriminatory and defended the measure as merely intending to set ground rules for Oklahoma courts.
"It was just to determine what type of law should be applied and adhered to in court," Wyrick said.
The 10th Circuit is expected to issue its ruling later this year.
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I wonder how the recent honor killings in Grapevine Texas will affect the courts and their defense of this so called
religion of Peace? Some Muslim dressed up like Santa and killed his family because they wasn't Islamic enough
for him. Hey maybe that suggests a new plan for Peace in them places like Iraq and Afghanistan where we gave
them American targets.If we pull out and let the Sunni and Shia slaughter each other -deploy troops to contain
their murder to their Islamic street. When their bloody false god is satiated then we could allow UN peace keepers in for mop up.
Could you please tell me why this is being decided in Colorado? I thought states rights were upheld when the people of that state voted on something that is happening within that state. What the hell is going on? Are there no states rights anymore, or the will of the people?
I'm looking for both myself bev.
Oklahoma falls under the jurisdiction of the 10th Circuit Federal Courts.It is the court Awad would file in to challenge the Constitutionality of the Law (that passed by over 70%). The claim is that is infringes on his Constitutional Rights and he is fighting it.
I am sorry to say, that it looks like the only way the Rule of Law will be upheld is for the American Citizens to step up and uphold.The Constitution is our saving document against a Government gone Tyrannical.
Shariah or Constitution any Judge That Accepts Shariah violates his oath of office, that court should be desolved.
I second that proposal. WHY our Government -and the mainstream Media are giving aid and comfort to the enemy in a time of war ( and I define a time of war thus--when either party commits acts of aggression harmful to the interests and or property of another with an intent to harm or to overthrow that system then we are at war) The Constitution is very clear about Treason. And If I charge our Government with Treason --I may be a nut case. But if the charges are made by two or more -then there is good cause to suspect Treason. The Oklahoma law seems to reflect Article VI of our Constitution and the Judge appointed by Obama seems misunderstand or misapply the First Amendment in our Bill of Rights. And most clearly seems to choose ignorance when it comes to Islam being a Religion that could be anything but an enemy to our system of government.
If the Circuit Judge sides with the plaintif then I have a real problem with the Circuit Judge and the whole judicial process. This is the same thing that happened in California with the people voting not to let "Gay" people get married. I think as a state, if the judge does side with the plaintif, then we as Oklahomans need to assert states rights and disregard this judges' ruling. I mean what more do they want? The people spoke. That is it.
OnlyBev: I am not sure if I should laugh or cry.
For the record, I graduated Midwest City class of '66 and left the state on my way to Vietnam four days later.
I have read the brief and I find the arguments asinine. The first amendment to the Constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
This was added to the Constitution in recognition of the social upheavals in Europe and England that occurred every time a king changed churches or a new king was a member of a different church than the last.
By extrapolation, the phrase: establishment of religion, can only mean the transformation of religious law into civil law... which is exactly what Sharia law is - the implementation of religious law into civil law.
Further more, since any action in a court requires two parties, even when the second party is the state itself i.e. the representatives of the people, it is safe to assume that at some point one of those people will not be of the Muslim faith.
If the courts were to consider Sharia Law in any manner shape or form then We The People will inevitably be subject to religious law thereby abridging the latter portion of the first Amendment, to wit: ...or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. They cannot have it both ways. If the courts uphold the use of Sharia Law then they are prohibiting We The People the free exercise of our various religions.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Very well said. The Constitutional amendment is to guarantee that Islam is not allowed in our court system, it does not restrict them from practicing Islam. Where as some of the decisions will be based on Judeo-Christian beliefs, that is do to Oklahoma and The U.S. Constitution being based on those Judeo-Christian values.
Darwin,Thank you for your service--and Welcome Home! I find the only thing I can add to your well written commentary is the Reports of committees for the US Senate 19 Jan.1853 Judiciary Committee Report by Mr.Badger on Chaplains and the Establishment of Religion--coupled with the corresponding report in the US House of Representatives by Mr.Meacham on same subject dated 27 March,1854 alongside the Commentary on the
Constitution of the United States by Joseph Story 1833 edition/or the text book he culled from and keyed to the larger Commentaries a Familiar Exposition of the constitution of the United States 1840/1859 /or Regnery edition 1997 from the original offers critical commentary published closer to the adoption of the amendment -- and Story was appointed to the supreme Court by Madison.So it seems safe to assume a somewhat shared view of the amendments meaning.
It's quite simple Buck..........most judges don't recognize the US Constitution as the bedrock document to base their legal observations and decisions. To put it bluntly, the legal system in America is filled with a bunch of treasonous, betraying, self-serving, whimpering dirt-bags..