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August 4, 2011

In March, Shenna posted this blog about a troublesome bill - LD 1076 - which would have banned court consideration of foreign law.  If it had passed, the bill would have unnecessarily limited judges' ability to look to informative decisions or bodies of law (always within the bounds of our judicial system and constitutional rights) and, in doing so, violated the doctrine of separation of powers.  

More disturbing, perhaps, than the constitutional or pragmatic concerns about the bill was the suspicion that the law was simply a ruse to attack and villify Muslims and Muslim Americans.  Sure enough, the national ACLU recently reported that LD 1076 was one of 26 versions of anti-Sharia legislation -- with some bills expressly singling out Sharia law for condemnation, and others (like ours) sweeping Islamic law under broader categories of “foreign” or “international” law.  

Fortunately, here in Maine the Judiciary Committee recognized that the bill was both discriminatory and unnecessary, concluding with a strong majority "Ought Not to Pass" report (11-2) which was accepted by the House and Senate, killing the bill.

Unfortunately, results in other states haven't been as successful  - leaving the ACLU to work to overturn this kind of legislation states like 
Oklahoma.

The reality is that the American judicial system already guards against the unfettered or inappropriate application of foreign law. There is simply no threat of Sharia or any kind of international, religious or foreign law that warrants widespread legislative action.  In fact, the court cases cited by anti-Muslim groups as symptoms of some kind of “Muslim threat” actually show the opposite. Courts treat lawsuits that are brought by Muslims or that address the Islamic faith in the same way that they deal with similar claims brought by people of other faiths or that involve no religion at all. 

We agree with Daniel Mach, Director of the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, who said today in a statement:  “The anti-Sharia law movement clearly seeks to ride the recent wave of anti-Muslim bias in this country, pushing laws that are rooted in the baseless idea that U.S. Muslims wish to impose Islamic law on American courts. Proponents of these misguided measures rely on the ugly implication that anything Islamic is inherently un-American, pressing for a legislative solution to a non-existent problem.”



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