Anti-Islam bills have now been introduced in a dozen state legislatures from Alaska to South Carolina.
Some bills refer specifically to Sharia or Islamic law. Others refer only to “foreign laws,” a thinly veiled reference to Islamic law. Bill sponsors include various Protestant lawmakers and one Jewish legislator.
These bills follow a November 2010 vote in Oklahoma where 70 percent of the voters passed an amendment to the state’s constitution to forbid state courts from using Sharia law.
Conservative Christians saw the measure as a check against a perceived threat of Muslim domination in the United States. Religious liberty advocates saw the amendment as a misleading, fear-based and hateful act.
U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange temporarily blocked Oklahoma from implementing the amendment on grounds it was unconstitutional. She said Sharia was not a “law” but a religious practice.
Despite the federal judge’s ruling, a number of state legislators began introducing anti-Islam bills in 2011.
One such bill would have banned Mississippi courts from using foreign laws, including Sharia. It died in committee. The House bill had been introduced by state Rep. John Moore (R-Rankin), a Baptist.
A Tennessee bill, S.B. 1028, explicitly defined Sharia law as a “legal-political-military doctrine and system.” It cited the “threat of terrorism” and concern about “the replacement of America’s constitutional republic” by Islamic law.
Introduced by state Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), the bill reads: “Sharia requires all its adherents to actively and passively support the replacement of America’s constitutional republic, including the representative government of this state with a political system based upon sharia.”
Ketron’s bill casts adherents to Sharia as involved in a “conspiracy” against the United States. Ketron is a member of the First United Methodist Church of Murfreesboro.
Those who support Sharia-defined organizations are committing a felony punishable by a fine or 15 years of imprisonment or both, according to the bill.
The same bill was also introduced in the Tennessee House by state Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma).
The Tennessean reported that Matheny said that Tennessee Eagle Forum, a Religious Right organization, gave him the bill.
The organization’s president, Bobbie Patray, is a member of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville. Patray said the bill was drafted by David Yerushalmi, head of the Society of Americans for National Existence, an anti-Islamic organization.
Charles Haynes, senior scholar with the First Amendment Center, called the bill “complete nonsense.”
Anti-Islamic bills also failed in South Dakota.
In South Carolina, bills have been introduced in both houses of the legislature with a focus on keeping foreign laws invalid in the Palmetto State.
State Sen. Mike Fair (R-Greenville) said his bill was “an effort to try to get ahead of the curve of what’s going on in other states.”
A member of and deacon at Faith Baptist Church, Fair claimed his bill did not single out Islam.
One of the bill’s co-sponsors, state Sen. Lee Bright (R-Roebuck), identified himself as on the Board of Visitors at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In Georgia, state Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta), a person of Jewish faith, told the Fulton County Daily Report that his bill would “ban the use of Sharia law in state courts.”
Jacobs said Sharia law could be used, though he also said he didn’t know of examples where individuals requested a state court to apply Sharia law.
In Texas, state Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) introduced in January a joint resolution seeking a constitutional amendment prohibiting a Texas court from “enforcing, considering or applying a religious or cultural law.”
“A lot of federal courts are referring to international courts and laws of other countries. We want to make sure our courts are not doing this, especially in regards to cultural laws,” the controversial Berman told The American Independent. “If that includes Sharia law, then so be it.”
Wyoming state Rep. Gerald Gay (R-Casper) proposed a constitutional amendment to keep Wyoming’s judges from using Sharia. He called his initiative a “pre-emptive strike.”
Only 263 Muslims live in Wyoming, according to an estimate of the Association of Religion Data Archives. Catholics, Mormons, Methodists, Southern Baptists and Lutherans predominate in the state.
Retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin warned in a Feb. 11 column that Americans must choose between the Constitution and Sharia.
Boykin wrote that “Sharia law is the foundation of Islamic theocracy and totalitarianism,” and he cautioned against a “nave [sic] interpretation” of religious freedom in the First Amendment.