Federal judge temporarily blocks Oklahoma amendment banning use of Islamic law

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma [official website] on Monday temporarily blocked [order text] a state constitutional amendment banning courts from considering international or Islamic Law. Chief Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange issued a temporary restraining order [AP report], stopping the measure from taking effect until a preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for November 22. The suit was brought [JURIST report] by the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [advocacy websites] and Oklahoma citizen Muneer Awad, who argued that the ban would invalidate part of his will, which is partially rooted in Islamic Sharia Law. Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved the measure [JURIST report], State Question 755 (SQ 755) [text, PDF], in the November 2 mid-term elections with 70 percent of the vote. Miles-LaGrange's order prevents the Oklahoma Board of Elections [official website] from certifying the results of the election. It is still unclear exactly what effect [WSJ report] the measure would have since foreign law is not binding on state or federal courts.

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. Duncan defended SQ 755 as necessary to protect Oklahoma [MSNBC report, video] from an attack on the fundamental Judeo-Christian principles on which he says the US is founded. Still, the necessity of the amendment has been questioned [CNN report] due to the fact that the use of Islamic law in US courts would likely violate the First Amendment prohibition on laws respecting an establishment of religion.

 

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