TOPEKA -- A bill that would ban the use of foreign legal codes in Kansas courts — broadly written but particularly aimed at Islamic “Sharia” law — is on its way to the governor.
The 33-3 Senate vote came after a long and at times emotional debate Friday.
Opponents, including two senators who signed the committee report to bring the bill to the Senate floor, called it intolerant and unnecessary.
Proponents fired back that the bill would protect the U.S. and Kansas constitutions and prevent the use of foreign law to take away fundamental rights enjoyed in American courts.
Sen. Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, apologized for putting the Senate in the position of having to vote on the bill, which passed the House 120-0 earlier in the week.
“This is one where I made some mistakes. The first one was signing the conference report,” he said.
Emphasizing that he is a Christian, Owens said: “I think this bill will set Kansas out as a place not to go if you believe any other way than particularly a very small religious-right perspective. … This country is based on freedom. And it isn’t ‘You can only be free if you think like me.’”
Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, supported the bill. Of opponents’ comments, he said: “I almost think they’re outrageous. Not only have we had a stretch of the truth, we’ve had a stretch of the rules. We don’t have any intolerance in this bill. Nobody’s stripped of their freedom of religion. This is talking about the law — American law, American courts.”
Sen. Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, argued that Sharia law itself is intolerant.
“They stone women to death in countries that have Sharia law,” she said.
Republican Sen. Chris Steineger of Kansas City, Kan., said the bill is obviously directed at Muslims.
He said he was first approached about the bill in January. The original pitch wasn’t about protecting the Constitution but that Muslims were trying to use Sharia law to take over the United States and had to be stopped.
“I thought that was quite ludicrous at the time, and I still do,” he said. “This (bill) doesn’t say Sharia law, but that’s how it was marketed back in January and all session long, and I have all the emails to prove it.”
Both the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the National Conference of State Legislatures say anti-Sharia proposals have been considered in 20 states, including Kansas. Oklahoma voters approved a ballot initiative in 2010 that specifically mentioned Sharia law, but both a federal judge and a federal appeals court blocked it.