Freedom of Religion: Islamic Law in Oklahoma

Julie Marsh

julie marsh
Julie Marsh
A hearing is scheduled today in Oklahoma City before the federal judge who blocked the ballot measure -- which passed with 70% approval -- to prohibit state courts from considering Islamic law in court disputes.

Remind me again, why are we talking about this?

Oh, that's right. Because folks are convinced that Islam will insidiously destroy our great Judeo-Christian nation. Because people have forgotten that federal and state laws trump any sort of religious law in court. Because the TSA is still trying to find those box cutters that passed through security on September 11, 2001 and took our common sense and rationality along with thousands of lives.

Oklahoma voters put the measure on the ballot and approved the amendment out of ignorance and fear. Muneer Awad, "executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma," has challenged the amendment, stating that it "stigmatizes his religion."

Indeed it does. In fact, "the plaintiffs’ attorney spent six days arguing that Islam was not a religion but a political movement conspiring to replace the Constitution with sharia law." I'd roll my eyes and move on from such a ridiculous statement if it weren't for the fact that conservatives have endeavored to do exactly that with Christianity in recent years, injecting religion where it doesn't belong and denying the validity of separation of church and state.

Islam has a PR problem in the United States, no doubt. I haven't yet heard of a state constitutional amendment to preemptively prohibit consideration of Talmudic law in court cases. I expect even FOX News would draw the line at such blatant prejudice against Judaism. But Islam is fair game.

First Amendment freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom to practice any denomination of Christianity you like. It means freedom to pursue (or not) any sort of spiritual practice you choose, so long as it does not violate any laws. For example, sacrificing virgins is not acceptable.

This increasing emphasis on religion in legal matters is worrisome. The idea that our federal and state laws aren't enough -- that we must specifically call out religious law as valid or invalid -- raises the spectre of establishment of a national religion.


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