Tennessee bill would make it a crime to practice Sharia law
Men pray on the street before the start of the American Muslim Day Parade last year in New York.
March 6th, 2011
01:59 PM ET

Tennessee bill would make it a crime to practice Sharia law

Editor's Note: CNN’s Soledad O’Brien chronicles the dramatic fight over the construction of a mosque in the heart of the Bible belt. “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door," airs March 27 at 8 p.m. ET.

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has been the epicenter of a months-long battle over the construction of a new mosque in the Nashville suburb. It's one example of many concerning Muslims in America, and how cities and communities are responding to efforts to build Islamic places of worship.

That battle got fiercer when two state lawmakers, one representing Murfreesboro, introduced legislation that would make it a felony to practice Sharia law, which includes lessons found in the Quran, the holy book of Islam, and which can inform how Muslims live their everyday lives, including prayer rituals. Many Muslims consider Sharia law to outline basic tenets of living a moral life. What is Sharia law?

State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and state Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, who are backing the same bill in the Senate and House, describe Sharia law as dangerous to U.S. national security, according to the Tennessean newspaper. The bill grants Tennessee's attorney general the power to investigate complaints about anyone who might be practicing Sharia law.

The possible punishment for practicing Sharia law is 15 years behind bars.

Last year, construction equipment on the site of a planned mosque in Murfreesboro was torched, and police suspect arson. Signs on the mosque property were vandalized with spray paint reading, "Not welcome." Two other proposed Islamic centers in Tennessee stoked much controversy last year.  A Crusaders' cross was spray-painted on the side of a Nashville mosque, next to the words, "Muslims go home." In Williamson County, not far from Murfreesboro, plans to build a mosque were quashed after residents complained a turn lane into the building would be too costly. The debate over a mosque near ground zero in New York is still raging. The U.S. Justice Department supports the Murfreesboro mosque.

Tennessee isn't the first state to consider anti-Sharia law legislation. Oklahoma passed a similar bill last year. This month Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley said he would support a bill that "maintains that U.S. law shall take precedence in U.S. courts," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Tilley referenced a case, frequently cited in the debate concerning the Oklahoma law, in which a New Jersey judge relied on Islamic law to rule in a case involving domestic violence.

Post by:
Filed under: Missouri • Oklahoma • Politics • St. Louis • Tennessee • U.S.
soundoff (972 Responses)
  1. MuddyBuddy

    So you get 15 years if you do not eat pork BBQ if you are Muslim, but its okay if you are Jewish, or one of the few Christian Sect which follow the whole bible?
    Much better law would be to state that NO RELIGION's laws ever trump the State of TN or the USA laws, and any attempt to enforce these laws using force is a serious crime. That would not be anti anyone, and would not make TN a laughing stock.

    March 7, 2011 at 6:28 am | Report abuse |
  2. Peter Vogel

    How, exactly, would this law work? If anybody does something that's against the law, even if it's required by their religion, they go to jail (this is settled law: Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith). Is the idea that the intent behind breaking the law should be examined and additional penalties applied (i.e. like "hate crimes")? Or is the idea that if some people enter into an agreement that is valid under the law but was driven by Sharia that the government could charge them with a crime and/or invalidate the agreement? How would you determine that? And do you want another reason for the government to insert itself into private agreements? And, if you allow that, what's to stop legislator's from making some other basis for coming to agreements invalid (many Jews, for instance, settle their disputes by getting advice from their rebbi and using Talmudic law as the basis for decisions)? The New Jersey judge's ruling (on whether to grant a restraining order on the husband by his recently divorced wife) was that there was "no intent to commit a crime" on the part of the defendant because of his religious beliefs–hardly an implementation of Sharia law. It was one of those difficult cases where the religious beliefs of the person involved conflicted with the law (e.g. like police officers who do not want to protect abortion clinics). However, the verdict was thrown out on appeal because, as the appellate court pointed out, under US law the intent of the rapist doesn't matter.

    March 7, 2011 at 6:42 am | Report abuse |
  3. Dean

    Cut the crap. Sharia is terrorist garbage, and has no place in this country. PERIOD.

    March 7, 2011 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Aarrgghh

      The crap is what is spewing out of your uneducated mouth, hate monger,

      March 7, 2011 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
  4. MuddyBuddy

    If the Republicans do not start a lasting war with Islam, their party is toast. They tried to make China the threat, but their corporate master balked, so now its Islam in all its forms, as opposed to Terrorists, and oppressive States. Its vital to maintain the fear as crime rates fall to their lowest levels in 100 years, and there are no communists to worry about.
    How else but fear to trick lower and middle class whites into voting against their own interests?

    March 7, 2011 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
  5. allen

    @scottfrom NH,Say what?!!! If you`re inviting the muzzies up here make sure you take them into your home!!I want nothing to do with the carpet kissing freaks.You`ve got to be out of your mind!

    March 7, 2011 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Aarrgghh

      That hold true with the whole easter bunny crowd as well.

      March 7, 2011 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mr.Anderson

    Everyone needs to realize that Christianity and Islam have always butted heads throughout history and still to this day. It'll never change. It would be nice if we all could just get along but it'll never happen. Thanks to ignorant people who like to make the situations worse than what they really are when they start. I guess this is where the young generation need to pull together and change what the older generations have started. Because we have to live in this mess they have made.

    March 7, 2011 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. nate

    What a waste of time.

    March 7, 2011 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  8. Steve

    if anyone wants a really good book that demonstrates the risks with continuing to let Muslims enforce Sharia law, check out "While Europe Slept". It tells a very poignant tale of how the very tolerant liberal folks in Europe let this risk sneak up on them, and how now trying to undo the damage is often more difficult that they realized. Look at the French. In many ways one of the the MOST liberal countries in Europe, and even they are banning the burqa...

    Wake up folks, Jews, Christians, and followers of other religions aren't repressing women and promoting violence like much of Islam. Just look at how those in the Middle East and northern Africa are rebelling now...

    March 7, 2011 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Brenda

    you can't compare apples to oranges. Christians do not kill to get a extra blessing in heaven. And all I ever see are old testament scriptures. Jesus came to fulfill the laws and he also said that whosoever is without sin could cast the first stone. and since we have all sinned then no one has has that right. Jesus's teachings are about grace and forgiveness.
    Americas laws are sufficient without imposing Sharia law. If you want to practice Sharia law then go back to where you can already do this.

    March 7, 2011 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
  10. Steve

    "While Europe Slept" – read it and see what the Muslim faith has done to much of Europe. Don't let them do it here in the States!

    March 7, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  11. Matrix

    People who keep quoting the Bible don't actually understand what it says, or don't have any clue as to how Halakha (Jewish Law) is interpreted.

    March 7, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Timehascome

      Bible readers no longer kill because the book says so. Islam still follows their Koran/Hadith/Sunnah literally – so it's legal for them to do 'honor killings,' kill apostates, atheists, gays, and any 'infidels' unwilling to convert/pay. These activities are NOT legal in USA, so muslims can still pray but can NOT follow sharia law – ban it! All must follow USA laws.

      March 7, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      No, it's not legal because religious law does NOT trump civil law in the US. Murder is murder regardless of what God's name you do it in.

      March 7, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  12. Nick

    Good old Republican racists. "Don't tread on me. Unless you don't look like me, then I can tread on you for being brown."

    March 7, 2011 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Timehascome

      Sharia Law & Islam are have nothing to do with race, Islam includes followers of all races. Grow up and learn the difference between these laws which Islam wishes to apply to all people.

      March 7, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  13. Timehascome

    USA already has laws. There cannot be 'parallel societies' with their own set of laws within our country. Either you obey one or the other. If you are not obeying USA laws, then you are choosing to break our laws. Muslims can pray at home or at the mosque, but they cannot run a society of 'parallel' laws instead of USA laws. In other words – NO to sharia law – ban it! No to 'honor' killings which are quite legal in sharia. No to killing apostates, atheists, gay persons – all ok under sharia. No to killing 'infidels' (that the rest of us) once muslims build their numbers here.

    March 7, 2011 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      You are right, the US already has laws. Those laws trump religious law, this was established a while ago. We don't need to pass a law saying honor killing is illegal – murder is illegal already.

      March 7, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. pointless1

    It doesn't surprise me one bit... Georgia republicans are trying to pass a law through legislation that would make a women who has a miscarriage a murderer! Punishable by Death... YAY AMERICA... Canada is looking a lot nicer even in the winter.....

    March 7, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  15. jihadjames

    jihad is declared on every in-bred southern right-wing redneck keeping our country in the 1800's.

    March 7, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28