A battle against federal taxpayer subsidies for Shariah programs is being escalated to the full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a three-judge panel of the court decided that a U.S. Marine had no right to challenge the government’s financial support for Islamic law.
The case has been brought by taxpayer Kevin J. Murray over the federal government’s multi-billion dollar bailout of AIG. It’s being handled by Robert Muise and David Yerushalmi of the American Freedom Law Center.
“It is one thing that our government felt compelled to bail out AIG after its fortunes were destroyed due to the company’s own recklessness and bad acts. It is quite another thing to use U.S. taxpayer dollars to promote and support AIG’s Shariah businesses,” Yerushalmi said.
The 6th Circuit’s panel of judges Alan Norris, Eric Clay and Allen Griffin ruled Murray lacked “standing” to challenge the constitutionality of the federal government’s use of taxpayer funds to support Shariah, the Islamic code of law based on the Quran and the teachings of Muhammad.
The complaint charges AIG used some of the bailout money to support the company’s Shariah-compliant insurance division, which even hires Muslims to advise on proper procedures.
Murray, a taxpayer and former combat Marine who served in Iraq, contends the federal government is not allowed to do that.
Muise argued it’s “well established that a federal taxpayer has standing to challenge the constitutionality of the impermissible use of federal funds appropriated and expended pursuant to Congress’ taxing and spending power.”
“Here, Congress appropriated billions of taxpayer funds to support AIG, and these funds are being used to support AIG’s Shariah-based activities in direct violation of the Establishment Clause,” he said.
At the time of the bailout, Muise said, AIG “was the world leader in promoting Shariah-compliant insurance products” and still is today.
The court conceded AIG subsidiaries “ensure the Shariah-compliance of its SCF products by obtaining consultation from Shariah Supervisory Committees.”
“The members of these committees are authorities in Shariah law and oversee the implementation of SCF products by reviewing AIG’s operations, supervising the development of SCF products, and evaluating the compliance of these products with Shariah law,” the court said.
The case was filed against Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and others.
The judges admitted that funds directed toward those subsidiaries come from U.S. taxpayers.
“Neither party disputes that Treasury Department financing supported all of AIG’s businesses, including the subsidiaries that marketed SCF products.”
AFLC’s petition seeks a full panel of the 6th Circuit for a review of the case because the three-judge decision “directly conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court and 6th Circuit precedent, and it effectively immunizes congressional spending from an as-applied constitutional challenge under the Establishment Clause. Additionally, AFLC is requesting en banc review because this case has exceptional public importance.”
The three-judge opinion argued federal TARP funds given to AIG were exempt from such challenges because the authorizing legislation didn’t consider giving money to aid religious outreaches such as AIG’s Shariah programs and the money was directed there by “executive” decisions.
Thus, the taxpayer lacked “standing” even to complain about the issue.
The judges came to their conclusion even though the court opinion admitted that shortly after the Treasury Department acquired an interest in AIG, the “department sponsored a conference entitled ‘Islamic Finance 101.’”
“The stated purpose of the conference was to provide government policymakers information about Islamic finance,” the judges said. “The presentation materials from the conference discussed topics such as the source of Islamic finance, how Islamic finance works and the market factors that caused its growth.”
The plaintiffs argued that Congress could or should have known its bailout money to AIG would go to Shariah “since AIG was well known as the leader in [Shariah complaint finance].”
But the judges that didn’t matter, contending the argument”falls well short of supporting a reasonable inference of congressional intention that a portion of the [federal bailout money] might support [Shariah].”
The appeals judges affirmed an earlier decision from a trial court judge who concluded the $153 million of U.S. taxpayer money spent supporting Islamic Shariah really isn’t anything worth mentioning.