Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange
Oklahoma’s “Save Our State Amendment,” which bans state courts from considering Islamic, or Shariah, law when deciding cases, hit a major roadblock today, when a federal judge granted a permanent injunction against the measure.
Chief Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma blocked the state from certifying the amendment – approved by 70 percent of Oklahoma voters through a ballot initiative known as State Question 755 – until an final determination is made on a lawsuit brought against it by the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Miles-LaGrange not only granted the injunction on grounds the lawsuit was likely to succeed, but also delivered harsh criticism of the amendment itself.
“Throughout the course of our country’s history, the will of the ‘majority’ has on occasion conflicted with the constitutional rights of individuals,” Miles-LaGrange writes in her decision. “Having carefully reviewed the briefs on this issue … the Court finds that [plaintiff Muneer Awad] has shown that he will suffer an injury in fact, specifically, an invasion of his First Amendment rights.”
In her decision, the judge said CAIR demonstrated the Shariah ban could be viewed as an “official condemnation” of Islam, resulting in “a stigma” attached to Muslims within the political community. She also argued that since many Islamic last wills and testaments require consideration of Shariah law, under the approved amendment courts would not be able to probate Islamic wills.
Therefore, she ruled, CAIR “has made a strong showing of a
substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his claim asserting a violation of the Free Exercise Clause.”
CAIR celebrated the ruling as a victory:
“Today marks another day in American history in which our courts have defended the Constitution against those who would deny its protections to a minority community,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We agree with Judge Miles-LaGrange and the U.S. Supreme Court that ‘fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote.’”
As WND reported, Oklahoma became the first state to put before voters the proposition that Islamic courts, Islamic, and Shariah-based court decisions should be banned.
Muneer Awad, executive director of CAIR’s Oklahoma chapter (and no relation to Nihad Awad), told The Oklahoman newspaper that “there’s no threat” of Shariah law being enforced in the U.S., calling it “a legal impossibility.”
One of the chief sponsors of the measure, state Rep. Rex Duncan, however, has argued that while the threat of Shariah in Oklahoma is not “imminent,” there’s “a storm on the horizon.”
The United Kingdom, for example, now has 85 separate Shariah courts for Muslims that operate in parallel with the Crown courts of the nation, and one judge in New Jersey already has cited Shariah in a defense of a man accused of assaulting his wife, though the judge’s decision was overturned in appeal.
Furthermore, Republican state Sen. Anthony Sykes, who helped author the measure, said both SQ 755 and another ballot initiative, which requires official state actions to be conducted in English, reflect the values of Oklahomans.
“Certainly each of these measures had critics, but the crushing margins by which these constitutional amendments passed shows without a doubt that those critics are deeply out of touch with the values and views of Oklahomans, just as Washington, D.C., is out of touch with America,” Sykes said.
The non-profit advocacy group Act for America contributed 250,000 automated telephone calls to voters, warning them of what founder Brigitte Gabriel calls “the destructive effects of this radical legal system in Europe.”
Gabriel called Shariah, which stipulates punishments ranging from chopping off the hand of a thief to death for infidelity, “is an oppressive, discriminatory law system. It suppresses religion, speech.”
“We want to make a very strong message (to Muslims), you are welcome to America, pray to whatever god you want to pray to, the Constitution gives you that right, but in America our law is the Constitution,” she said.
Gabriel said it’s imperative for voters to establish that the U.S. Constitution, and no other document, is the controlling law of the land before the U.S. begins looking like the U.K.
“We are trying to warn Americans to look at what’s happening in Europe. If Europe is any preview, we need to make sure we put up the barriers right now,” she said.
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