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A judge in Oklahoma has stopped the certification of a vote that keeps Shariah Law and international law from being used in Oklahoma courtrooms. The text that was presented to voters is as follows:

This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.
International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.
The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.
Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.

What interests me about this case is not that Shariah Law may be banned, but that the plaintiff is claiming his 1st Amendment rights would be violated if such a ban was in place. So, Shariah Law, based on religious beliefs, should be allowed to override federal and local law. This must really put people who do not want Judeo-Christian iconography on federal, state, or public land in general into a twist. You basically have someone who wants religious rights upheld while those rights violate the rights of others.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am really looking forward to reading some write-ups by people who are vehemently against religion in the public sector. I have to wonder which way they will swing on this issue. Do they back up a law that prohibits religion from interfering with federal and state law or do they say defend the 1st Amendment.

In reality, this law does nothing to prevent people from practicing their freedom of religion. It simply removes the possibility of religious or international law being used in Oklahoma courts. Basically, if you perform an honor killing (which Shariah allows for), you cannot be protected from being prosecuted. This would not be the first time that beliefs and religion have been turned down as adequate defenses.

A very interesting case is unfolding in front of us. It will be very interesting watching this play out over the next few months.

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  1. Jeff #
    November 10, 2010

    I think the legal issue is whether the law violates the establishment clause because it targets one religion, not whether Shariah law can override federal, state, or local law. What about Mosaic Law, Canon Law, Hindu law, or any other religious laws?

    Also, according to the WSJ article, the plaintiff is concerned that the law could be used to invalidate his will because it refers to Islamic teachings on the distribution of property. I doubt that would happen but I can understand the concern given the unusual nature of the law. Could a court refuse to enforce an otherwise valid and legal will because it is based on Islamic teachings? Strange. Surely Oklahoma has better things to do with their time and resources.

    I would have voted against the measure as a protest for being ridiculous.

    • November 10, 2010

      Jeff,

      I thought about this more today and you’re thoughts on it targeting one religion are exactly where my brain was headed. It’s hard for me to disagree with the logic that singling out a religion in legislation is not legal. The thought also occurred to me that when a Muslim in Oklahoma passed away and their will called for affairs to be handled in a Islamic way, this law could get in the way.

      I’ll write a follow-up with these thoughts.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Jeff #
    November 11, 2010

    This ballot measure has Fox News propaganda written all over it.

    • November 11, 2010

      Not sure I’d go that far. If that’s the case then every sensationalist piece of “news” out of MSNBC is propaganda as well.

  3. Jeff #
    November 11, 2010

    Yup, it often is. Only Fox is much much better at it, more profitable, and influences a much larger population.

    It’s not just that news gets sensationalized. Local news channels have been doing that for years with their “if it bleeds it leads” approach to news reporting. It’s more about how the networks use their news and opinion shows to systematically manipulate, manage and push certain storylines to create narratives that exploit the prejudices of their audiences, which is the literal definition of propaganda.

    If you know your audience has certain suspicions of Muslims and “liberal” judges, then stories and commentary about Shariah Law (beheadings, stonings and evil!!!) encroaching U.S. civil law becomes a nice storyline to feed your audience. Likewise, if you know your audience thinks Sarah Palin is a train wreck, then of course you’re going keep her in the news and push every story that positions her as the leader of the opposition, regardless of the fact that a very small percentage of people actually hold her in high regard. It is the systematic approach that the networks use to shape public opinion that makes it propaganda.

    As long as partisan tactics are their priority istead of actual journalism, I don’t think either Fox or MSNBC can be considered real news organizations. Although I do enjoy MSNBC’s morning program with that lefty Republican Congressman.

    • November 12, 2010

      Your first sentence sounds like you’re implying that Fox has some stranglehold over viewers. That they are somehow holding a gun to their viewer’s heads so they won’t watch something else.

      It’s a chicken/egg argument. Do people watch Fox because they have some sort of magical death grip on people’s eyes or is Fox so popular because people actually agree with what’s being said?

      If the government tried to limit Fox News would you stand up for them?

  4. Jeff #
    November 12, 2010

    You mean if the government censored Fox? Sure, I would stand up for them. Just because it’s a propaganda operation doesn’t mean it’s illegal, as long as they don’t slander or incite violence (Beck’s rhetoric comes awfully close sometimes). It’s not about shutting them down. It’s about recognizing them for what they are and viewing their programming with that awareness. No, I don’t think the average Fox viewer or television viewers in general are very thoughtful about what or how they consume information. I think a lot of people (left and right) consume mostly junk because it’s easy and tastes good. Fox gives their viewers what they want (like drama, confrontation, enemies, validation), even when it’s not what they need (like perspective, context, facts, sobriety). The same can be said for several MSNBC programs.

    By the way, I’m interested to hear your thoughts about the Simpson-Bowles recommendations. The fact that both the left and right are criticizing it makes me think it’s probably a good plan. I particularly like the tax reform recommendations. It’s the first realistic and most honest plan I’ve seen so far.

  5. Jeff #
    November 17, 2010

    Paul Ryan was on Charlie Rose a few nights ago. Rose isn’t very good at challenging his guests but it’s a good format for having a more casual conversation and getting politicians out of their constant talking point mode, although Ryan still had plenty of platitudes that begged for substantive follow-up questions. Anyway, I’m convinced that if you put Ryan and Obama in a room together and could somehow insulate them from all the political posturing, they could reach a sensible compromise on a lot of fiscal issues.

  6. Jeff #
    December 17, 2010

    At the risk of beating a dead horse and since you’re the only person I know of the opposite political persuasion who I think actually cares about this stuff, the results of a University of Maryland study about voter misinformation were just released. http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brunitedstatescanadara/671.php?nid=&id=&pnt=671&lb=

    According to the study:

    Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that: most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely); most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points); the economy is getting worse (26 points); most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points); the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points); their own income taxes have gone up (14 points); the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points); when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points); and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it–though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.

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