Federal Court Blocks Oklahoma Ban on Sharia

Bill Mears, CNN, January 10, 2012

A federal appeals court has blocked an Oklahoma voter-approved measure barring state judges from considering Islamic and international law in their decisions.

The three-judge panel at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier injunction preventing State Question 755 from being certified until the free speech questions are resolved. The decision Tuesday allows a lawsuit brought by Islamic-American groups to move ahead to a bench trial.

“The proposed amendment discriminates among religions,” said the judges. “The Oklahoma amendment specifically names the target of its discrimination. The only religious law mentioned in the amendment is Sharia law.”

A federal judge last summer had issued a temporary restraining order in favor of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which had sued to nullify the law completely.

The amendment would require Oklahoma courts to “rely on federal and state law when deciding cases” and “forbids courts from considering or using” either international law or Islamic religious law, known as Sharia, which the amendment defined as being based on the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed.

In bringing suit, CAIR argued that the amendment violates the establishment and free-exercise clauses of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. {snip}


Ballot supporters “do not identify any actual problem the challenged amendment seeks to solve,” said the 37-page ruling. “Indeed, they admitted at the preliminary injunction hearing that they did not know of even a single instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law or used the legal precepts of other nations or cultures, let alone that such applications or uses had resulted in concrete problems in Oklahoma.”


The Oklahoma controversy stems from a New Jersey legal case in which a Muslim woman went to a family court asking for a restraining order against her spouse, claiming he had raped her repeatedly. The judge ruled against her, saying that her husband was abiding by his Muslim beliefs regarding spousal duties. The decision was later overruled by an appellate court, but the case sparked a nationwide firestorm. The issue spread to Oklahoma, prompting the ballot initiative.

Tuesday’s ruling deals only with the injunction stopping certification and enforcement of 755. There was no indication when the federal district judge would hear the larger merits of the Oklahoma case and issue a ruling, but that could be some months away. {snip}




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