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.

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

    The law will never pass, so its a moot point anyway. Freedom of Religion is part of what this country was founded on and laws aimed specifically at religions will not pass.

    To the reader who made a comment about slavery, your ignorance is obvious. Have you read the bible? The bible condones slavery and even sets down guidelines in regards to owning another person. Fanatic christians are as easily dangerous as a muslim. Both are willing to kill others for their beliefs.

    March 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Havardfbl

      Prohibiting Sharia law does not equal prohibiting Islam.

      March 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wagman

      I don't think it's about religion I think it's about trying to set aside existing law and replacing it with their Shira Law. Go to a mosque, pray to Allah I don't care just don't beat your wife because the Quran says it's OK to if she burns breakfast a bit. We have laws in place against such things.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      Wagman: Right, we have laws in place already. There is no need for this legislation.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • skytag

      @Havardfbl: "Prohibiting Sharia law does not equal prohibiting Islam."

      Sharia law dictates far more than practices we find objectionable. It provides guidance for ordinary daily living as well. For example, it dictates that women in public must cover their faces with a Hijab, so this Tennessee law would make that practice illegal. Sharia law address how Muslims should dress and fast, so under this law it would be illegal for Muslims to follow those instructions as well.

      Sharia law prohibits dating and marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, so a Muslim who refused to date a non-Muslim because of his religious beliefs would be in violation of the Tennessee law.

      If America could figure out how to turn ignorance into a product for export we'd never have a trade deficit again.

      March 8, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • JPopNC

      Faethor....regarding the Bible's "condoning of slavery"...that just goes to show you know just enough about the Bible to be dangerous. The slaves mentioned under Jewish "ownership" were servants, not slaves as we saw here in early America. They went home in the evening to their families, they earned wages, and they could pretty much quit whenever they wanted. Mostly they were working off some level of debt, so once the debt was paid off, they weren't required to stay. So please...please...quit saying the Bible condones slavery because it doesn't.

      Also, remember Moses led the Jews OUT of slavery. They were in true bondage under the Egyptians and required to do hard labor.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Havardfbl

    Trucker- Shut up HAJ.

    March 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Patrick

    what about rabbinical courts in session in New York? Shouldn't they be banned as well? May be the Jews can do not work but the muslims can always

    March 7, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tyhouston

    Difference of "Not agreeing with" and most of the laws are spousal abuse, child molestation, slavery, legalized murder, extortion ect.

    We made it clean long time ago, you can have freedom of religion, but that doesn't over write the laws of the land covering... spousal abuse, child molestation, slavery, legalized murder, extortion, just cause your god and or prophet is a sick puppy your not allowed to be one in the name of a invisible man in the sky.

    March 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bobby McKenzie

    To all of you guys talking about freedom of religion, and separation of church and state, and badmouthing christianity (BTW, the Bible does NOT condone slavery), isn't it funny that while christianity and judaism don't conflict with established law, Sharia Does in numerous ways. Gee, these same people who are talking about freedom of religion when defending a law that treats women like third class citizens and directly conflicts with US law, unite against things like allowing high school graduates to say a prayer at their graduation, launch a full scale war against Christmas, the ten commandments, nativity scenes, etc. What is the deal.

    March 7, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      Sharia has MANY aspects, including parts about diet, prayer and charity. The parts you object to are already illegal under US law.

      I object to ANY religion imposing its beliefs on the legal system of our country, including Christianity. It bugs me that many of the same people who support this also support abortion restrictions and oppose gay marriage because their religion says its bad.

      March 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • bible and slavery

      if it doesn't condone slavery why are there so many instructions for how a slave should behave and how the master should behave. You can find these references in both the old and new testaments. Remember you can have your own opinions but you can't have your own facts.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • christopher

      Yes the christian bible does condone slavery (I am a christian by the way) and yes christian law does conflict with U.S law. Do you think it's okay to stone someone for adultery or that adultery should even be against the U.S laws? This legislation though is a solution in need of a problem. There is no risk of sharia law becoming the law of the state. If individuals want to practice it then it's their business so long as they don't practice the parts that already are against the law. The key phrase there is "ALREADY AGAINST THE LAW" meaning there is no point in legislatino to make it illegal. It just gives them an extra charge on the docket if they do break the law.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • JPopNC

      bible and slavery....."if it doesn't condone slavery why are there so many instructions for how a slave should behave and how the master should behave. You can find these references in both the old and new testaments. Remember you can have your own opinions but you can't have your own facts"

      Take yourself out of your own point and time and realize back then they did not have "bosses" and "employees". Back then they had "masters" and "servants". The analogies you're referring to correctly translates as "servants" and they would be relative to a boss/employee relationship.

      And how about the parables where the "master" gave his servant money to invest? Two different instances where the boss gave money to his "employees" to invest and to those who invested properly, he rewarded them with the profits. Does that sound like modern day "slavery" to you?

      March 25, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. Anotheralt

    I'm just going to take a wild guess here, but anything objectionable about Sharia Law is already illegal. There's literally no point in this move other than to try make sure one group feels like a second class based on their religion.

    March 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA


      March 7, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Peter

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
    Can anybody tell me where this quote is from?

    March 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scotty

      And exactly WHAT does Congress have to do with a State?

      March 9, 2011 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
  8. David

    If we could just get rid of all the Bible thumpers in the south we'd have a much better country.

    March 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • dan25ny

      "Amen" to that

      March 8, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • JPopNC

      or you could take yourself back up north where you came from.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  9. sls.jps

    How about learning to spell correctly prior to accusing people who disagree with you of having a 7th grade education at the age of 16? The reality of the Muslim predicament is unfortunate, there are some bad individuals destroying the reputation of the Muslim masses. Citizens who would like to restrict the rights of the Muslim community are simply attempting to protect themselves, their family, and communites from those few negative elements. It is a difficult balancing act when trying to avoid impinging on the freedom to practice religion and respecting the rights of Muslims, but one that must occur to prevent future acts of terrorism against any of the people of the United States of America who have a foremost right to safety and security.

    March 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    Good deal, about time people take a stand. As expected, many here are bringing Christianity into it even though the article has nothing to do with it. But if that makes you feel cute and you get your jollies from it, go right ahead. After all, you wouldn't want to miss an opportunity to get your pot-shot in, would you? Good for you!

    Regarding Sharia law, by all means, let's make it legal to perform honor killings via beheading or other means. We wouldn't want to offend those in this religion of "peace", now would we?

    March 7, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      US civil law ALREADY trumps religious law. Murder is illegal – you cannot get off because you believe in Sharia Law anymore than the guy who killed the abortion doctor got off because he thought the Bible justified it.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. David

    If we could get rid of all the Bible Thumpers in the south this would be a much better place.

    March 7, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DaveL

    I am not sure how I feel about all this?...I am still trying to find the difference between our Tea-Bagging Bible-Thumpers
    and Muslims...Let see...They both treat woman like second class citizens...They both think their governments should be
    a Theology...Both have killed in the name of God...Wait...I am thinking about Radical Islam... Last I knew America was founded on religious freedom...Do the Republicans know that?

    March 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • you are stupid

      You must have dropped out at about 1st grade DaveL.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kitch

    Rita, doesn't it depend on what the school is teaching? After all if it was an all Muslim School that would be wrong, right? Doesn't the Bible teach the Golden Rule?

    If TN would try to live and let live maybe we could make things better for everyone. I know in my Catholic grade school they taught me to treat others as I'd like to be treated. If TN tried to tell me I couldn't practice my religion they'd have a fight on their hands. I'm sure if they tried to take that right away from you, you'd do the same.

    What does your education tell you is the probable outcome of this? My education which includes a degree in International Relations and the hard knock education of the US Army tells me people will fight for their rights. Why make an enemy of normal people that just want the same rights as you. Not every Muslim is the enemy but if you treat every Muslim like they are soon enough, they will be. Then you've become the destoryer of worlds.

    ...Hey I think I quoted Christianity, Islam, and Hindu all in one post.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. christopher

    This is pointless politically motivated legislation. The parts of sharia law that worry people are already illegal in all 50 states. Other parts of sharia law should not be prohibited. Like praying at a particular time every day or making a pilgrimage. All parts of sharia law. This is blatent violation of the 1st amendment should the law be passed. It is not the governments business unless what they are doing violates someone elses liberties in which case it is already illegal.Just another way to stack legislation upon other legislation making it almost impossible to follow all of the laws. At any given time you are violating the law without even knowing it because narcissistic politicians propose this kind of bill that the people support because they are too stupid to think and will blindly accept any legislation so long as it is being presented as defending us against the boogeyman or the terrorists in this case. Well all it does is cost taxpayers money while taking away someones civil liberties. Tell me, how long will it be before the gov't wants to take our rights away too? You know they never go after the majority first. They start by picking on the little guy so they'll have the support of the majority so that they'll have the precedence they need when they decide it's time to curtail our rights.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • skytag

      Exactly. This is just beyond stupid. Laws should target acts and behaviors, not religion.

      March 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Amused

    At least those from Tennessee know how to use punctuation.

    You should also learn to distinguish between "their," "there," and "they're."

    How long did you take to get through grade school? By the evidence presented, you haven't.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
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