Federal judge blocks Oklahoma Islamic law ban

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma [official website] on Monday ordered a preliminary injunction [text, PDF] blocking the enforcement of the controversial Oklahoma constitutional amendment [SQ 755 text, PDF] banning the courts from considering international or Islamic law. Judge Vicki Miles-LeGrange ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Muneer Awad, executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [advocacy website] in Oklahoma, who brought the suit claiming that State Question 755 (SQ 755) violates the First Amendment [text] because it stigmatizes his Muslim religion. Miles-Legrange found that Awad was substantially likely to succeed on the merits:

Specifically, the Court finds that plaintiff has made a strong showing that State Question 755's amendment's primary effect inhibits religion and that the amendment fosters an excessive government entanglement with religion. While defendants contend that the amendment is merely a choice of law provision that bans state courts from applying the law of other nations and cultures, regardless of what faith they may be based on, if any, the actual language of the amendment reasonably, and perhaps more reasonably, may be viewed as specifically singling out Sharia Law, conveying a message of disapproval of plaintiff's faith.
Miles-LeGrange also stressed that the Bill of Rights was meant to protect the majority from taking away rights of individuals. SQ 755 was overwhelmingly approved [JURIST report] in the November 2 mid-term elections with 70 percent of the vote.

Miles-LeGrange's preliminary injunction comes less than a week after she extended a temporary restraining order she issued [JURIST report] just six days after the election, stopping the Oklahoma Board of Elections [official website] from certifying the results. SQ 755 would prevent Oklahoma courts from "look[ing] to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures," requiring them only to look to legal precedents of other states for guidance, provided that state does not use Islamic law. It was sponsored by state Representative Rex Duncan (R) [official website], who described it as a preemptive strike [Daily Mail report] against the use of Islamic law in Oklahoma that would undermine [MSNBC report, video] Judeo-Christian principles on which he says the US is founded. Critics contend [JURIST comment] that it is based simply on an irrational fear of everything Muslim.

 

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