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Judge Blocks Oklahoma's Anti-Shariah Amendment

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By Sandhya Bathija

We have some good news out of Oklahoma today.  A federal judge has put a temporary stop to the so-called “Save Our State Amendment” – Oklahoma’s anti-Shariah amendment.

The measure, which passed with 70 percent of the vote on Nov. 2, revises the state constitution so that “courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia Law.”

Since our Constitution already separates religion and government, Americans United opposed the Oklahoma proposal. We said it served no legitimate purpose and that supporters (including most of the state legislature) were simply fanning the flames of religious discrimination and intolerance against Muslims.

Yet proponents of State Question 755 were able to convince the majority of Oklahomans that if they didn’t vote for the amendment, Islamic law would somehow have become the basis for American law.

Thankfully, a majority vote has no business trampling the constitutional right of others. U.S. District Court Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange yesterday issued an opinion granting a preliminary injunction to stop the Oklahoma State Board of Elections from certifying the election results.

“Throughout the course of our country’s history,” Miles-LaGrange said, “the will of the ‘majority’ has on occasion conflicted with the constitutional rights of individuals, an occurrence which our founders foresaw and provided for through the Bill of Rights.”

She doubted the constitutionality of the amendment, writing, “While defendants contend that the amendment is merely a choice of law provision that bans state courts from applying the law of other nations and cultures, regardless of what faith they may be based on, if any, the actual language of the amendment reasonably, and perhaps more reasonably, may be viewed as specifically singling out Sharia Law, conveying a message of disapproval of plaintiff’s faith.”

The lawsuit, Awad v. Ziriax, was brought by Muneer Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

“We applaud today’s ruling and welcome the opportunity it offers to demonstrate that Oklahoma’s Muslim community simply seeks to enjoy the civil and religious rights guaranteed to all Americans by our Constitution,” Awad said in a statement on the CAIR Oklahoma’s website.

We join in applauding this court’s decision. Judge Miles-LaGrange got it just right. The Constitution does not allow government preference for one religion or the denigration of another.

For a full report on the background of the Oklahoma anti-Shariah law amendment, check out the December issue of Church & State, available online tomorrow.


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