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. Kris

    Many Americans are descended from people who fled Europe because they were not allowed to practice their religion. Passing a law like this makes us no better than where we came from. I'm sorry, but if this passes I hope some place passes a law that makes Christian churches and practices illegal. "I'm sorry. Communion is illegal. That will be 15 years in jail for you."

    March 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Strawberry Burns


    You're going to have to do better than name calling.

    How about we take this a step further and ban any religious based system of law?! That would be a step in the right direction for once! SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE!!! RELIGION HAS NO PLACE IN OUR GOVERNMENT OR JUDICIAL SYSTEM!!!

    March 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Athens

    I wonder if they want Muslims to ignore the part of "Sharia" law that states that Muslims are to obey the laws of the country they live in. It is in the Qur'an . . . look it up! Out of all the things going on all over the world . . . this is what tax money is being spent on? What a waste of time and money. If this goes through, you can look for the complete secularization of the United States of America. We will be the next France and no one, not even Christians, will have the right to go by the laws laid out in the Bible. Each and every one of us should be shaking in our boots that so many people agree with this kind of sentiment. It is these sorts of steps that Hitler took before the Holocaust. He began dehumanizing the Jewish populace in an attempt to completely justify their killing. You tell me . . . did his plan work? Was he able to convince his people that the Jews were less than human and that it was okay to kill them? Yes, he was. This is wrong.

    March 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. doesitmatter

    Jo An - when did you live in TN? the 1880's? the 1890's? the 1920's? the 1930's? First off....Baptists DO NOT handle snakes. That is usually some obscure branch of the Church of Christ or Holiness Church. Secondly, women in the Baptist church have worn make-up, cut/dyed their hair worn and pants/slacks/jeans,mini-skirts for generations and have had active roles in the church. See reference above for the women who do/don't do those things. Our neighboring Methodist church has a woman pastor, and she has been invited to speak to our congregation (Baptist) several times. Please don't generalize Tennessee or Baptists without having all of the current information and correct facts concerning the state and the correct religous denominations.

    March 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • schuyler

      Lots left the southern baptist convention becuase of their beliefs about women.

      March 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Drew

    Can they save us from Biblical Law too?

    March 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lou50

    good for tennessee, past time to put it in print.

    March 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. NHop

    If the time ever comes that Muslims make up a majority of Tennesseans - or Americans - laws like this will be (or will have been) rescinded. And if that majority favors shari'a law, it will replace or supplement all civil and criminal codes. That may never happen; and if it does, it will occur long after everyone now alive is long dead.

    March 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Litterboxrox

    Is this the South rising again? Is this how it will start?

    March 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Name*joe

    This debate is garbage. This country is gonna go to hell in a hand basket. I was born here, I have had to follow the laws my whole life. My wife came from a different country, she had to follow them even being a different religion. So now they gotta change for some that decide they want to come over? I don't think so. Practice your religion, that's cool, but if something goes against the law, prepare to deal with the consequences. Hey, you want to move here, be an american? Live by our laws. Want to live in iran? Live by their laws. Easy as that, tghere shouldn't be a debate. Can't follow the rules in school? Get expelled same for people and the law.

    March 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. alanjay1

    How quick we are to throw our bill of rights out the window as soon as we feel a little scared of something which which we don't agree.

    March 6, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Pete

    USA was built on Western principles and civilization. If Muslims want Sharia, they can keep it over there in the dessert. They can stay there too. I don't see why they are even immigrating to a Western country if they don't plan to blend in.

    March 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Observer

    All these people thinking Sharia law is fine have no idea what they're talking about. According to Sharia law, if you think your daughter is being promiscuous, you can kill her. If your wife did something you don't like (or you want to get rid of her), you can accuse her of being unfaithful and kill her. They're justified by calling them "honor" killings.

    Yea, Sharia law is great. For men.

    March 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. granitejon

    Good. For all you who say "what about freedom of religion" Islam is not a religion, it is a dangerous murderous cult that is intent on killing anyone who does not follow it. If you think otherwise just see what happened in Europe. Muslims refuse to integrate and are continually pushing for Sharia law.

    March 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. patriot


    read the article and tell me why anyone would want sharia law creeping in to the US court system

    March 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chris

    I have a problem with this law as reported, but not with the basic concept. It concerns me when the Court applies religious law, whether it's Sharia, Hassidic, or Christian, in the civil courts of this country. As I understand it, and despite many of the posts here, this has NOTHING to do with the practice of religion, just the application of religious law to the secular court system. And I think that judges should not insert religious law, from any religion, into decisions that should be based on the law of the land. (And before anyone says something, yes, I know that religious beliefs are the basis of many civil laws, but we should only be enforcing in the courts those laws that have been passed by the legislature).

    March 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
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