On Thursday, 15 August, US District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange struck down an Oklahoma state constitutional amendment (known as SQ755) that forbade Oklahoma’s courts from considering Islamic law (Shariah) in judicial decisions.
SQ755 had overwhelmingly passed a vote of the people in Oklahoma in November 2010.
This decision was not a surprise and echoed an earlier ruling by the Tenth US Circuit Court of Appeals back in 2010. As detailed in this article, SQ755 contained several flaws which rendered it counterproductive:
Fortunately, there is an effective and constitutional alternative to measures such as SQ755 and Oklahoma joined a host of other states this spring in passing it into law. That law is called American Laws for American Courts (ALAC).
Authored by Representative Sally Kern and Senator Gary Stanislawski of Oklahoma, ALAC passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives 85-7 and the Oklahoma Senate 40-3. The bill was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin on 22 April.
Versions of ALAC have now been signed into law in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona, Kansas, and Oklahoma. A version of ALAC passed the Alabama legislature overwhelmingly as a constitutional amendment and goes to a vote of the people on the ballot in the next statewide election. A version of ALAC also passed both houses of the Missouri legislature but was vetoed by the governor; an override session is scheduled for September. Most recently, a version of ALAC passed the North Carolina Senate and House by a wide, bi-partisan margin and is awaiting the governor’s signature there.
ALAC remedies the flaws in Oklahoma’s SQ 755, and in many ways takes a diametrically opposite approach to SQ 755:
• ALAC is facially neutral. In an honest debate, it cannot be accused of discriminating against any religion or protected class.
• ALAC is based on a completely different legal premise from SQ 755’s.
Rather than seeking a ban on foreign or international law, ALAC seeks to preserve the constitutional rights and state public policy protections of American citizens and legal residents, in cases involving foreign laws in the particular dispute being adjudicated. If a case arises in which a foreign law or foreign legal doctrine is involved in a dispute in a state court, ALAC prevents the use of that foreign law or foreign legal doctrine if any of the parties’ fundamental constitutional rights or state public policy would be violated in the process. This is very different from a blanket ban on foreign laws.
• ALAC is not vague. It provides specific guidance for judges on complex legal issues involving comity, choice of law, choice of forum, conflict of laws and forum non conveniens, protecting fundamental constitutional rights.
Because of the careful planning and thought behind ALAC’s wording, in contrast to SQ 755, from a practical standpoint, it is effective in preventing the enforcement of any foreign law — including in many cases, shariah law — that would violate U.S. and state constitutional liberties or state public policy.
And the need for an effective law preserving constitutional rights against the enforcement of unconstitutional foreign law is both real and urgent: an independent study conducted by the Center for Security Policy found fifty cases in 23 states where shariah law had been introduced into state court cases, including many appellate and trial court cases where the judges ruled for shariah law over U.S. law. Most victims of foreign laws in these cases had come to America for freedom and individual liberty — including American Muslims seeking to escape shariah laws.