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. *happy 'merican ya go.....FLorida had to FORCE A WOMAN TO SHOW HER FACE FOR ID PICTURE.....proof! All of a sudden it got quiet.....Edwin....where are you. Lol

    November 4, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • its like no one has a mind anymore

      Please elaborate as to what lawsuit could be benefited by this law. As I understand it, judges cannot apply any laws or precedents that are not American. If they mistakenly do (as it happened in New Jersey with the rapist husband), then there is the appeals process. This process works fine. The Muslims and their traditions don't scare me and I won't vote for any politician that is going to tell me that the Muslims are coming to get me and they are the politician that is going to save me. Any politician using that low of a tactic simply looses all of my respect.

      November 6, 2010 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. Brian

    I think that although Sharia Law is not yet a problem, it could potentially be. It's basically a legal extension of religion, but not religion itself. It seems to me that that is the case to be made, that making a law prohibiting it (a pre-emptive strike if you will) would require making the argument that it's not religion, but law, and it contradicts human rights and US law. It's a tough problem to resolve, but it is debatable whether it's even a problem at all. Interesting legal question indeed.

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

      This would require a population actually asking for the imposition of Sharia Law. So answer this question: How many people in Oklahoma firmly believe in Sharia and are actively working toward it being imposed upon the state? I'll give you a hint, the number only has one digit.

      November 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. *happy 'merican

    One more thing...when religion gets hijacked by craziness.....why do you defend them? Burkas are not sharia...its a symbolism of rejection of western progression. But once its challenged, THEN THOSE MUSLIMS WILL CLAIM "FREEDOM OF RELIGIOUS.

    November 4, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Charles

    As I read these comments I am deeply disturbed by what I see. The hatred has got to stop on both sides. Enough!!!Bottom line,what the major agenda is of the law? If is to protect the rights of all Americans and visitors of our country, I say yes ban Sharia law. If it is anti-Muslim in nature, we are wrong as a society. But let us first look at Sharia law. As I stated earlier, Sharia law is a brutal side of Islam which does not allow equal rights to women and gives the right for Muslims to punsih other Muslims for violating religious code. For example, if you do not wear a full burka as a female, you can and will be punished. My question is then, what happens when a young adult female who wants to leave her religion/family etc...but is under "Sharia" law. Her rights potentially as an American citizen could be lost. We cannot allow ANY religious or other group to have seperate laws in this country plain and simple. And lastly, Islam does have a dark side, they are called extremist, we all must realize this and not sugar coat it. Many beliieve in conforming or destroying those who do not believe. But not every Muslim wants to kill every non-Muslim and most do not hold this view. It is the same thing saying all Oklahomans are Racists, it simply is not true.

    November 4, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Salmo

      But what you don't understand, Charles, is that all that bad stuff is already forbidden and the courts are forbidden from using Sharia to allow it, because it's religious law. We don't need a special law banning it. Oh, and burkas aren't part of Sharia.

      November 5, 2010 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. The Dude

    Thank You Charles. It's nice to read a lucid and well thought out comment addressing this issue.

    November 4, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BantheBurka

    I applaud Oklahoma for attempting to call attention to and address a BIG LOOMING PROBLEM that has already made a mess of Europe and is about to become a big problem here in the good ole U. S. of A. Why do Americans feel so compelled to be cultural apologists for the Islamic political agenda? The islam that is at war with the West is not a religion it is a POLITICAL IDEOLOGY whose core mission is gender apartheid and the subjugation of women. WAKE UP America, the threat is real, and today we live in a country where officials won't call Honor Killings "Honor Killngs" for fear of offending muslims... huh? When did this happen to the land of the free and the home of the brave?
    France got it right – call a spade a spade, ban the burka, ban sharia, whatever it takes...

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

      "When did this happen to the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

      Nothing happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave because people who understand First Amendment law have been protected America from theocracy for years.

      November 4, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BantheBurka

    The First Amendment does not protect expression that represents "a clear and present danger", the burka – due to the hostile environment that it creates for women including the torture and murder of those women courageous enough to refuse to wear it – represents a clear and present danger. Our founding fathers would trade off the right of a radical few to protect the safety and welfare of the many in a NY minute...
    It's time for us to apply some common sense and throw out the psuedo-intellectual cultural apologist nonsense.

    November 4, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ryan

    Whaaaa whaaa, boo hoo sharia law is scuurry! All religions are idiotic and the followers of which are scarry stupid people. Why don't we go ahead and ban all religions, but Michael has it right that would be in violation the 1st amendment.

    He who sells freedom for security deserves neither. Bantheburka has no spine he/she should GTFO of my country. The good ol' US of A is only for people that live for the CONSITUTION.

    November 4, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. BantheBurka

    Like I said, the First Amendment does not protect expression that represents "a clear and present danger". Send your sisters over to the UK and German neighborhoods where unveiled women are beaten routinely. I am sure they will love it. I am not going anywhere – I am looking forward to watching America WAKE UP.

    November 4, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • timothy

      The burks clearly presents a danger in some places.
      Until it presents itself clearly as a danger here, however, it is not clearly a present danger.
      Thus, with neither clarity nor presence as a danger to the citizens of Oklahoma, it is not
      a clear and present danger.

      There are places where wearing a cross represents a danger, should we therefor ban the wearing of the cross?

      November 5, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. secularokie

    As a progressive and an atheist, born raised and living in Oklahoma. I cringe whenever the right-wing religious fanatics continually do things which make us appear backwards and bigotted That said, in a way I see the passage of this bill as a chance to litigate and establish legal precedence. The Christian dominionists have been strategically positioning themselves to try to pass legislation declaring this a "Christian State"and implementing biblical law. It will be only fitting if their paranoia will create the basis for blocking their efforts.

    November 4, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • SecularOkie2

      Hey neighbor! Okie Agnostic here. You voiced what I've observed growing up in the fringes of dominionist ideology. Don't let the good christian, republican, homeschooling, david Barton-reading social engineers fool you with the church lady act. They want an America ruled by Kingjesus, and don't care whose rights get lost in the process. The trouble is, he doesn't exist and there's a lot of power at the top for those smart enough to be in on the joke.

      November 5, 2010 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  11. secularokie

    @Really??, So what you are saying is that all the stonings in the Old Testament were...? Was God wrong? Did God change his mind? Typical Christian apologetics.

    November 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ryan

    @bantheburka like I said those who sell freedom for security deserve neither. There is no "clear and present" danger here. At least not with sharia law. Like secularokie said christians have been trying to impose their biblical laws on us for decades. I am looking forward to bantheburka getting cancer in his damaged brain. Bantheburka you are a disgrace to America you filthy bigot.

    November 4, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jared

    How does this new law affect the Native American tribal courts in the state? Can they no longer apply tribal laws in trials? This law specifically states that only federal law can be applied.

    November 5, 2010 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Jenanana

      State courts and state laws have no jurisdiction over tribal members or those living on tribal lands. ONLY Federal laws apply. Last I checked states cant creat and pass federal laws by themselves so this rediculous ban/legislation will have absolutely no affect on the tribal population. The ONLY part that i kind of sort of like is the all english part. But that only really should and can apply to domestic and state business only. International flag carriers for imports and exports should not be required to ONLY conduct business in the US in English, I dont think that would work well. but im not all that educated in the matter, im just tired of the grocery clerk and random cashiers not understanding me when im just trying to get food, gas, etc and im tired of people calling me at work looking for quotes that cant speak english either. but mainly my issue is with tired of everything being repeated in spanish. everywhere. on every thing. blah

      November 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rebecca

    As a Christian Orthodox and a democrat I say ban all the laws that are based on religion...

    November 5, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  15. WannaBOkie

    WAY TO GO OKLAHOMA !!!!!!!!!! – I am one of your south of the Red River neighbors who has always complained about those dang Okies. But since the "No Sharia law" has passed, I am now looking at homes in OKC !!!!!! I am 100% for the law. In my feeble understanding of Islam, if a Muslim cannot convert a non-muslim, the muslim has the Obligation of either enslaving the non-muslim or killing the non-muslim both actions presumably fine and dandy under Sharia law. I have always admired educated/smart women (Educated women a no-no under Islam/Shaira) and I also like dierct eye contact when conversing with other individuals (Another no-no for females out in the marketplace – burkas only please).

    November 5, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • bro

      "In my feeble understanding of Islam"...

      yeah, you probably should have just stopped there.

      November 12, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
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