On Thursday, a federal court permanently struck down an amendment to Oklahoma‚Äôs constitution that would have banned the non-existent practice of Oklahoma courts replacing American law with Islamic law, among other things. The unconstitutional amendment provided that ‚Äú[t]he courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures.Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia law.‚ÄĚ A federal appeals court previously upheld a temporary injunction blocking the Oklahoma amendment; Thursday‚Äôs decision holds that the injunction should be permanent.
There was never any serious doubt that this attempt to write animus towards Muslims into a state constitution violates the United States Constitution. As the Supreme Court held in Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah, ‚Äú[a]t a minimum, the protections of the Free Exercise Clause pertain if the law at issuediscriminates against some or all religious beliefs or regulates or prohibits conduct because it is undertaken for religious reasons.‚ÄĚ Moreover, it‚Äôs not even clear what the explicitly anti-Islamic language in this amendment was supposed to accomplish. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit explained in upholding the temporary injunction against the amendment, Oklahoma officials ‚Äúdid not know of even a single instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law or used the legal precepts of other nations or cultures, let alone that such applications or uses had resulted in concrete problems in Oklahoma.‚ÄĚ
Nevertheless, similar attempts to ban Islamic law or otherwise prevent courts from seeking guidance from foreign sources are common among conservative lawmakers. As a recent Center for American Progress report explains, ‚Äúlawmakers in 32 states have introduced and debated these types of bills. Foreign law bans have already been enacted in Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arizona, while a related ban on the enforcement of ‚Äėany religious code‚Äô has been enacted in South Dakota.‚ÄĚ