[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday unanimously upheld [opinion, PDF] a ruling blocking the implementation of an Oklahoma constitutional amendment [text, PDF] that would have prohibited state courts from considering Islamic and international law in deciding cases. Approved by approximately 70 percent [election results] of Oklahoma voters, but challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [advocacy websites], State Question 755, also called the “Save Our State Amendment,” was classified by the court as singling out Islam for unfavorable treatment in state courts. The court ruled that the provision likes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment [text]:
Federal courts should be wary of interfering with the voting process, but we agree with the district court and the Sixth Circuit that “‘it is always in the public interest to prevent the violation of a party’s constitutional rights.'” … “While the public has an interest in the will of the voters being carried out … the public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual’s constitutional rights.” … We therefore hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the preliminary injunction was not adverse to the public interest.
Though defended by Oklahoma Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick as necessary to prevent confusion in the courts, Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom and Religion and Belief [advocacy website], said in a press release [text] that “this amendment did nothing more than target one faith for official condemnation … [and] [e]ven the state admits that there has never been any problem with Oklahoma courts wrongly applying religious law.” Moreover, Chandra Bhatnagar, senior attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program [advocacy website], added that “[a]ttempts to paint international law as irrelevant to the American legal system are wrong-headed and dangerous,” and that preventing courts from considering international law violates the Constitution and undermines the ability of courts to interpret laws and treaties.
Despite its approval by voters in November 2010, the Oklahoma state amendment was soon after blocked by a federal judge [JURIST reports]. Before Tuesday’s ruling, the constitutionality of the amendment has been consistently controversial, as it has been both condemned as un-American [JURIST comment], and also supported as a preemptive strike [Daily Mail report] against the use of Islamic law in Oklahoma. The lawsuit was originally filed on behalf of Muneer Awad [WT backgrounder], executive director of the Oklahoma CAIR.