By Sandhya Bathija
In just six days, Oklahoma voters will decide whether they want to write religious intolerance into their state’s constitution.
That’s what they will be doing if they vote “yes” for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit courts from considering “sharia” – Islamic law – when deciding cases. Since our Constitution already separates religion and government, this proposal has no legitimate purpose.
Supporters are simply fanning the flames of religious discrimination and intolerance. I hope Oklahomans see that.
The ballot initiative – known as State Question 755, or the “Save Our State” amendment – already has received the overwhelming approval of the legislature. The House passed it with an 82-10 vote, and the Senate followed suit by 41-2.
Supporters of the measure claim it’s the only way to protect the state from a takeover by Islamic extremists.
“There is actually a huge pocket of terrorist organizations operating out of Oklahoma,” said Brigitte Gabriel, founder of “Act! For America,” which is backing the measure. “I know this because I work with members of the FBI who are in counter-terrorism and who are paying attention to what’s happening in Oklahoma. What we are seeing right now, not only in Oklahoma, but nationwide [is] where there is a large concentration of Muslim population, [there are] more demands and more push for sharia law.”
Sadly, Gabriel and her allies have fooled a lot of people in Oklahoma into believing that if they don’t vote “yes,” Islamic law will become the basis for American law. A poll by The Tulsa World in July found that 49 percent of voters support the amendment compared to 24 percent who opposed it and 27 percent who were undecided.
It’s really disappointing that the current anti-Islam sentiments circulating in the nation have enabled such fear mongering. Let’s be clear: The U.S. Constitution already states that religion cannot be the basis of our laws. The First Amendment mandates the separation of church and state.
The Oklahoma Constitution is also pretty clear. Article I, Sec. 2 states: “Perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured, and no inhabitant of the State shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship; and no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.”
But considering the past antics of the Oklahoma legislature, we know many legislators must be confused about religious liberty and the constitutional separation of religion and government. Americans United often has trouble explaining this foundational concept to some of the state’s lawmakers who seems to want to make their version of Christianity the basis for laws.
Oklahomans who really understand the Constitution, however, should have no reason to fear that sharia law will ever be imposed by the government.
Even the state’s conservative-leaning newspaper, The Oklahoman, knows that. The newspaper asks its readers to vote “no” on the amendment, rightfully asserting that it has “no practical effect and needn’t be added to the Oklahoma Constitution.”
If you live in Oklahoma, or know someone that does, it’s not too late to spread the word.