November 3rd, 2010
01:20 PM ET

Law professor: Ban on Sharia law 'a mess'

Oklahoma's new ban on Islamic law poses potential legal hurdles.

Oklahoma voters on Tuesday approved a measure that bans the application of Islamic law and orders judges in the state to rely only on federal law when deciding cases. State Rep. Rex Duncan, a Republican, was the primary author of the measure, which amends that state constitution.

Watch how the ballot initiative's author and others feel about the ban

For months, legal experts had lambasted the initiative as biased toward a religion and potentially harmful to local businesses that engage in commerce with international companies. It also presents potential constitutional law problems, experts say. Is Oklahoma's state constitution now in direct conflict with the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, which states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ... "?

There has never been a previous case in the state in which Sharia law was applied, said Rick Tepker, the first member of the University of Oklahoma School of Law faculty to try a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tepker called the passage of the measure "a mess" with implications unknown until a case that challenges it arises.

"Many of us who understand the law are scratching our heads this morning, laughing so we don't cry," he said. "I would like to see Oklahoma politicians explain if this means that the courts can no longer consider the Ten Commandments. Isn't that a precept of another culture and another nation? The result of this is that judges aren't going to know when and how they can look at sources of American law that were international law in origin."

What is Sharia law, and how is it defined in the ban?

Businesses that engage with international companies may also find the ban is a stumbling block, Tepker said. The ban also requires all state business to be conducted in English.

Duncan has said he knew of no precedent in the state's history in which a judge applied Sharia law. But he backed the measure, he told reporters, as a "pre-emptive strike."

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Filed under: Oklahoma • Politics
soundoff (254 Responses)
  1. Becca

    I live in Oklahoma a

    November 3, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Becca

    I live in Oklahoma and I voted for this state question. I just want to make sure none of these Islamic fanatics do not mess with our local government. To me, this is sending a message

    November 3, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Becca: this is similar to measures banning the use of alien control devices by doctors - i.e., it is a phantom that has no reality. There has never been a case ruled on other than the law at that time. If you are so worried about Sharia law, give an example of a case, somewhere in U.S. history, where it was even considered. Just one case.

      November 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Progressive Okie

      I live in Oklahoma too: please know we aren't all as ignorant and deluded as Becca.

      November 3, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • das

      A (stupid) solution in search of a (non-existent) problem.

      November 3, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chicago Democrat

      You have a double negative in your statement, which would mean that you actually want the fanatics to mess with OK. In the United States Ecclesiastical Communities (and I say that as opposed to Church as there is only one Catholic Christian Church) have laws that govern how they are married and divorced, that in effect should not happen in Ok. as well as the Fundamentalist Christians may try to take over, O wait, they have.

      November 3, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deb

      Do you know what a double negative is? Just curious.

      November 3, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bazinga

      The message I'm getting is you sound like a 3rd-grader.

      November 3, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeaBigots Suck

      Message: Americans are racist idiots. Good job becca.

      November 3, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Don't worry Becca, people who respond with personal attacks are ignorant. While there has never been a case that used Sharia law, there won't be in OK

      November 3, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      You want to "make sure none of these Islamic fanatics do not mess with our local government," huh?
      You understand that you are saying you want Islamic fanatics to mess with your local government. The reason you're stating that is that you don't have an adequate understanding of the English language and its grammar.

      November 3, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Demoncrat


      Before getting upset, consider the sources of most of these responses. goons have nothing better to do after yesterday's drubbing.....


      Maybe you should watch or read the news. Google Sharia Law in New Jersey to see the case which spawned the Oklahoma law. Maybe you should send your wife or daughter to spend a year in Iran or tribal Pakistan since Sharia Law is so peaceful......

      November 3, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Repugnancan

      @Demoncrat – what case in New Jersey?!? There is no real case. And don't source some conspiracy website as your source. Find us just one legitimate news source on your claim.

      Even the author of this law acknoledges that there has NEVER been a case of Sharia law being applied in the US. How can you argue with that?

      November 3, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Bones

      I was going to take the high road here, as ad hominem arguments are such hollow tactics that play on emotion rather than logic. But you, and everyone who voted in favor of this dross, are just so very, very stupid. Astoundingly so. I mean indescribable. Like bag-o'-hammers dumb. Weapons-grade. Amazing. Miraculously dumb. A black hole of stupidity from which no light can escape.

      November 3, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ignatzz

      The purpose of LAW is not to "send a message," and anyone who creates laws for that purpose should stop voting, for the sake of sanity.

      November 3, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      @Becca, how can I put this delicately? You should be ashamed of your failure to live up to the Jeffersonian ideal of being an informed citizen. You have fallen for the most blatant type of pandering and populism imaginable, and you failed to temper this with even the most basic sort of principled analysis. Or, to put it another way, you are a moron.

      November 4, 2010 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Smith

      Good for you Becca, I would have done the same.

      November 4, 2010 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • bob

      Becca, you've just shown the rest of the world why Oklahoma has the reputation that it does. Your prejudice and ignorance know no bounds.

      November 4, 2010 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      A stupid solution aimed at a portion of the issue which is really not the problem in this nation. Hmm.....sort of like ObamaCare when you look at what it does and what it fails to do.

      November 4, 2010 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • *happy 'merican

      Beccca, thank you...and Edwin, I win! You challenged someone to find a sharia "issue" in America, and I did.....hahahaha! Florida. Burka. Id picture. LOL. IDIOT.

      November 4, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      hey, Happy American: the burka has NOTHING to do with Shaira law. not all religious duties imposed by Islam are connected to Sharia. You, sir, have failed.

      November 4, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Billy

      Muslim fanatics messing with local government?

      Ya got to nip it in the bud Andy! Nip it in the bud!

      Do you just sit and watch Fox News 16 hours a day?

      November 4, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • *happy 'merican

      Robert, really? Santa Claus isn't christian either is tied to Xmas. come on brother.....don't defend those who abuse and mince words to their benefit

      November 4, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Power Corrupts All

      This is a liberal speaking.... I would have voted the same way Becca did. Sharia Law is trying to make it's way to the US the same way it did in Britain. I don't care if there has or hasn't been a case considering Sharia Law. There is no way that anyone can afford to gamble with the lives of their daughters and granddaughters on this subject. Just stop it now before it gets a chance to start.

      November 24, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Adam

    "I would like to see Oklahoma politicians explain if this means that the courts can no longer consider the Ten Commandments."

    No, of COURSE the courts cannot consider the Ten Commandments when making their ruling. If the TC and the US law happen to overlap, such as on murder or theft, that's fine, but do you really want to see a judge hand down a guilty verdict and a punishment against a private citizen who wants to worship an idol?

    Religious law doesn't get to dictate federal law. If a law which is seen in a religion (again, such as murder/theft) is also useful for a secular purpose, then it will get into government law by its own merit. But the fact that it is found in a religious context should not give it a head start.

    This law does not conflict with the first amendment; it is a manifestation of it.

    November 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dana


      November 3, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Betty Whyte

      Why do you care Adam the Atheist?

      November 3, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Dude

      @Betty Whyte... the man says that federal law is the basis for how courts should rule as opposed to using the TC as a basis for a ruling and you make the jump to he's an Atheist?

      November 3, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tory

    Thankyou & God Bless Oklahoma & Her Courageous voting Citizens !!

    November 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Next they will ban the use of alien mind probes...

      Come on, people! There has NEVER BEEN A CASE in the United States based on Sharia law! If you disagree, find one! NEVER! And the reason is this: are laws are not guided by religious law, but by American Secular Law.

      November 3, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeaBigots Suck

      Oklahomas' new state flag is a white hood. Its no wonder they produce people like Timothy McVeigh, Republican terrorist. 🙁

      November 3, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mano

      Just keep demonstrating your lack of real knowledge. Timothy McVeigh is from Lockport, New York.

      November 3, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Betty Whyte to Mano Mano

      Nano! Nano!

      November 3, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • VoterX

      Damn, even Texas isn't that stupid...

      November 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      @voterX Its sad because its true... 🙁

      November 4, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      An appeals court had to overturn a judge's domestic violence ruing. He denied an Islamic wife a restraining order against husband who was beating and raping her. If the appellate court had upheld the ruling a precedent would have been made. It would have condoned discrimination against Islamic women in domestic violence cases.

      November 4, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Gilbert

    Would you agree Becca that Islamic Law is more of a religion? And in America, our local, state, and federal laws should take precedence over foreign law, especially when this law was "for the people."-and Americans have died for this going all the way back to our founding fathers. I doubt those lost lives were for Islamic folks. If they want to rule, they can go back to their land. Do you agree Becca? Does anyone agree?

    November 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boney

      just agree with her gilbert.

      November 3, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • RedneckEgyptian

      Go back to their land?! How ignorant. I was born and raised in the U.S. and my mother is from Oklahoma originally and I am Muslim. Where do you expect I go. Besides, no Muslim asked for any judge to use Sharia law!!

      November 3, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeaBigots Suck

      @Gilbert Arent you late for your Klan meeting?

      November 3, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. osama bin diesel

    Nachos rule !

    November 3, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      This is factually correct!

      November 4, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jerome

    None of our laws should have a religious basis. Unfotunately judges do use their religious biases throughout the nation, such as denying custody to a parent just because he is an atheist. If this ballot just stated that religion should not be a criteria in decisions, I would be ok with that, but it singles out one religion. That is a clear violation of the Establishment clause. One religion can't be treated differently than others.

    November 3, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jason

    This should be 100% common sense and part of American judicial process all along. Of course the religious laws of a foriegn country have no bearing in an American court. That goes for Sharia law, the Ten Commandments, and all others.

    We don't need to enforce "Thou shalt not kill" when we already have very clear-cut laws established to deal with murder. Our laws might run in parallel with some religious laws, simply because basic ruman rights (do not kill, do not steal, etc) are ideas which every person of any faith should appreciate and respect.

    November 3, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Stephanie

    The oklahoma law would preclude a judge from enforcing a contract between two people that is based on sharia law. before the oklahoma measure passed, the judge would have had to enforce whatever law the parties had agreed to (of course, there are certain tenets in common law that would preclude enforcement of any moraly represhensible precepts). It is not uncommon, for example, for two international companies to agree to apply the laws of another country in a dispute over a contract (for example, British law). There is a lot of sharia law relevant to investments by firms with islamic shareholders. The Oklahoma measure would prevent a court from enforcement an investment contract that limited the types of investments a fund could make, for example.

    November 3, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bazinga

      I doubt it. When a court strikes a choice-of-law clause in a contract, the result is not that there is no contract. The result is that there is a contract under the common law of the state where it was formed. Offer, acceptance, consideration. That's a contract.

      November 3, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Oh its worse than that, Stephanie. The way i read the amendment, it prevents ANY international law from being enforced. So not just contracts governed under Sharia, but under any other nation's laws, or under the CISG. Bazinga, you are correct that if a choice-of-law provision is struck down, it does not invalidate the entire contract, but your analysis may be flawed from there. Is it your position that the Oklahoma State courts would automatically assume the contract was then formed in Oklahoma? I don't think that's an obvious (or legal) assumption at all. And if the contract was not formed in Oklahoma then even if the court rejects the choice-of-law, they do not have one ready made to apply. Which means that even if the contract is still valid, it is unenforceable. So Oklahoma companies now have no remedy under state law, and foreign companies which might want to do business in Oklahoma have a strong reason not to, if they cannot get choice-of-law provisions that are favorable to their business. In any case, until this stupid law is struck down wholesale by the federal courts, international contract law is going to be a busy field for OK lawyers!

      November 4, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. guest

    It shouldn't be a problem banning sharia law at all.
    For anyone that has ever studied Islam , the mudslums have only two options when it comes to what they call " Infedels"
    1) Convert them to Islam ( from which there is to be no return ) or
    2) Kill them !!
    Don't believe me ??? Study it for your selve !!
    You want to believe islam to be the relegion of peace ??? You have every right to.......but to me, the peace and security of the United States is far more important than their idiotic agenda !!

    November 3, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • squidflakes

      I have studied the Qu'ran and it is obvious that you haven't. Please make the effort of opening a book before you try and quote from it. It makes you look like less of an uneducated fool.

      November 3, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • jraglobal

      Islam is not a is a totalitarian doctrine disguised as worship. It enslaves thoughts and people. It kills for the slightest infraction. It is a violent elitist cult that is dedicated to racism and destruction of all other religions. Why isn't it treated the same way any other violent group is treated?

      November 3, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      It never ceases to amaze me that people with the most intolerant views also have the worst grammar, punctuation and spelling. I wonder if there's a correlation between lack of education and ignorance and intolerance.

      November 3, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • BCasey

      "it is a totalitarian doctrine disguised as worship. It enslaves thoughts and people." is any religion
      "It kills for the slightest infraction." do most religions in the third-world
      "It is a violent elitist cult that is dedicated to racism and destruction of all other religions." Seems familiar to our country, the USA
      "Why isn't it treated the same way any other violent group is treated?" Because they scare us and they are primarily brown people which seems to make it okay with many Americans...

      BTW – I am a catholic. I'm just a realist and don't have problems calling a spade a spade instead of hiding in misunderstanding and fear.

      November 3, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      If islam wasn't disguised as religion, it would be recognized for what it truly is; the 21st century application of Nazi doctrine.

      And I have read the Qur'an, and several other of their "holy" texts. Try THESE quotes squidflakes You moron). YOU ARE THE UNEDUCATED FOOL!

      Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme" Sura 8:39

      "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits, for Allah does not love transgressors". Sura 2:190

      "And slay them (the infidels) wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out, for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter" Sura 2:191

      Can you say "Dhimmitude". Get your head out & open your eyes.

      November 3, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      @JRAglobal.. I would love you to try and find ANY religion that doesn't meet that EXACT defination

      November 4, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. guest

    I think we should allow sharia law !! The stoning of all of the adulterers should pretty well clean up the family courts, hence cutting down on legal fees, and saving the taxpayer's $$$$
    Another great benefit would be the occasional population controls to our overcrowded subway systems and buses!!

    November 3, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. guest

    @ NY Cosultant.......I think you should go play in the same well as the mahdi

    November 3, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mitch

    I am embarrassed to know that I'm just one generation removed from Oklahoma. What a ridiculous, no-nothing law. Also ... "The ban also requires all state business to be conducted in English." Does that mean any individual who is a party to any aspect of Oklahoma business must be fluent in English or the business deal is off?

    November 3, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Travis

    I want to congratulate Oklamhoma voters for approving this plebiscite and taking safe guards to prevent what is happening in Great Britain and starting to happen in Canada. If you don't believe that Sharia law will creep into usage, you are deluding yourself.

    November 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • jraglobal

      Travis.... you're the truth and a voice of reason...well said.

      November 3, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeaBigots Suck

      Travis also believes in the boogeyman and pretty unicorns. Lol cough cough racist trash cough cough. Cowards 🙁

      November 3, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Name*ts

      @ teabigot, there is a huge difference between the boogeyman and unicorns (which don't exist) and the fact that Sharia law is ACTUALLY being applied in GB and Canada. You f-ing moron.

      November 3, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeaBigots Suck

      Lmao. Life must suck for those of you who cower in fear hiding and hating everything that's not like you. Afraid of your own shadows. Like children in the dark woods everything turns sinister and evil to the uneducated and immature mind. I feel sorry for you. Living your entire existance in the bondage of ignorance. Wasting your God given gift of life on arrogance and fear. IDIOTS

      November 3, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Have you ever been to canada or anywhere outside of the united states. You talk about what is happening there, have you ever actually been there?

      November 4, 2010 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Travis

      Been there? I live in Canada and I've been to Great Britain. And you don't think that Sharia Law crept into our court system up here? Its been here since 1991.

      November 4, 2010 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Travis

      How about Great Britains, Sharia courts, do you want them in Oklahoma?

      November 4, 2010 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      A stupid judge in New Jersey already had to be slapped down in an appeals court. He denied an abuse victim a restraining order. He applied the Islamic cultural rules from the abusers country of origin rather than New Jersey statutes on domestic abuse. The taxpayers had to pay for the extra court costs when it was overturned on appeal. This will save Oklahoma money on repeated future challenges attempting to supplant US laws. Smart move.

      November 4, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      A stupid judge was already slapped down in appeals for applying Islamic cultural rules rather than State laws in an abuse case. That cost taxpayers New Jersey money in court costs. The victim could also file a civil rights suit against the state. This will save Oklahoma money on repeated future challenges attempting to supplant US laws. Smart move.

      November 4, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kenneth

    As a voter in Oklahoma, the decision was clear... Sharia Law nor any other international law should be used when considering legal precedence. Jason is correct.

    The only concern I have is that this issue has minimal importance when there are enough problems facing this, or any state.

    The official state language being English... that has far more importance than the question on International/Sharia Law.

    November 3, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
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