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Mississippi House approves bill banning use of foreign law

[JURIST] The Mississippi Legislature [official website] voted 116-1 to pass House Bill 177 [text] on Monday, which would ban use of foreign law. It also voted 78-37 for House Bill 490 [text], which would ban Mississippi governments from adopting sustainable development principles as in Agenda 21 [text, PDF], a non-binding 1992 United Nations declaration. At least five other states have passed laws against Agenda 21. Opponents to the non-binding declaration argue that it may inhibit property rights or other freedoms. House Bill 177 aims to protect constitutional rights including "due process, freedom of religion, speech, or press, and any right of privacy or marriage." Although not specifically identified in the bill, critics claim it targets Sharia. Both measures reflect Republican concerns about improper foreign and international influence on American affairs.

Other states have passed measures forbidding the use of foreign law. In August 2013 North Carolina passed [JURIST report] the Family, Faith, and Freedom Protection Act of 2013 [text, PDF], which prevents courts from applying foreign law in divorce, alimony and child custody actions. Critics argued that the bill's purpose is to invoke anti-Muslim sentiments because the US already supersedes foreign law. The same month a federal judge in Oklahoma barred the state [Reuters report] from adding a measure to its constitution that would ban state courts from considering Sharia law under any circumstances, stating that it would violate the freedom of religion provisions in the US Constitution. In August 2011 Michigan lawmakers introduced legislation that banned Sharia law and other laws deemed foreign. A similar Oklahoma law was challenged in May 2011 when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [advocacy websites] in May asked [JURIST report] the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] to uphold [brief, PDF] a lower court ruling that blocked an Oklahoma constitutional amendment banning courts from considering international or Islamic law. In November 2010 Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved the measure [JURIST report].

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