Missouri is now the latest state seeking to ban its courts from consulting Sharia law. A bill introduced on Tuesday by State Rep. Paul Curtman (R) would bar courts from taking any foreign law, legal code or system into consideration when deciding cases.
From the bill:
Any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision violates the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable if such court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the constitutions of this state and the United States.
In essence, Missouri courts would be prohibited from considering or using any international law that does not grant individuals the same rights as the U.S. Constitution does.
Dr. S.I. Strong, a law professor from the University of Missouri, called the bill a “dangerous exercise” that could potentially open the Missouri court system to complex litigation. She told TPM the bill has a number of inconsistencies and would be difficult to implement.
“The document takes the view that it is only trying to protect the fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under United States constitution. But there’s huge disagreements about what those fundamental rights are and we’re in constant litigation about them,” she said.
Requiring that Missouri courts only consider foreign laws that grant individuals those same rights would force courts to undertake expensive and time-intensive analysis of foreign law, she said.
Strong said the bill could also have implications in marriages, divorces and child custody cases.
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Paul Curtman, and Speaker of the House Stephen Tilley, a cosponsor, did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.
Just last week, legislators in Tennessee went a step further, proposing a bill that would make adherence to Islamic law illegal and punishable with jail time.
The issue was elevated to national levels in November, when an amendment to the Oklahoma constitution forbidding courts from considering or using international law was overwhelmingly passed as a ballot measure last November. A federal judge granted an injunction against the amendment later that month.
For an in-depth look at the origins of Sharia anxiety in the U.S., check out TPM’s investigation on the subject.