The Denver-based U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Oklahoma's Sharia law does not
pass constitutional muster. The law was put on the books in a legislatively-referred voter referendum
in November 2010. It passed by 70 percent of the vote.
The law would have disallowed any reference to Sharia or international law in the passing or interpretation of laws in the state.
Last year, a lawsuit brought by Muneer Awad, executive director for the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, arguing that
the initiative stigmatizes Islam and also denies him rights that are available to people of other religions. For instance, Awad said his will instructs a judge to look to Islamic precepts in situations where Awad's wishes aren't clear. The initiative, Awad said, would prevent a judge from doing that, even though the judge could do that for people who are Christian or Jewish.
The lawsuit elicited an injunction. Oklahoma officials appealed. The appeals court heard oral arguments in the case in September. Writing for a three-judge panel of the court in a 37-page ruling issued today, 10th Circuit Judge Scott Matheson stated:
"We conclude that Mr. Awad's allegation—that the proposed state amendment expressly condemns his religion and exposes him and other Muslims in Oklahoma to disfavored treatment—suffices to establish the kind of direct injury-in-fact necessary to create Establishment Clause standing [...]
Appellants do not identify any actual problem the challenged amendment seeks to solve. Indeed, they admitted at the preliminary injunction hearing that they did not know of even a single instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law or used the legal precepts of other nations or cultures, let alone that such applications or uses had resulted in concrete problems in Oklahoma. [...]
Given the lack of evidence of any concrete problem, any harm Appellants seek to
remedy with the proposed amendment is speculative at best and cannot support a
compelling interest. “To sacrifice First Amendment protections for so speculative a
gain is not warranted [...]
Because Appellants have failed to assert a compelling interest, they have failed to
satisfy strict scrutiny. Mr. Awad has therefore made a strong showing that he is likely to
prevail in a trial on the merits."
No word yet on whether Oklahoma will appeal to the full Circuit Court or to the Supreme Court.
Scott Keyes comments:
Today’s decision is a seminal moment in the ongoing battle against Islamophobia. As anti-Muslim individuals continue to push Sharia hysteria in other states, many legislators may think twice before passing a law deemed unconstitutional by the 10th Circuit.
Two such prominent individuals are David Yerushalmi, author of anti-Sharia legislation, and Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy and leading anti-Muslim advocate. In a July 2011 New York Times article, Gaffney noted that the two wanted to “engender a national debate about the nature of Shariah and the need to protect our Constitution and country from it.” In an ironic twist, today’s ruling ultimately concluded that it was the Constitution which needed protecting from the Islamophobia network.
Count one for sanity.