State Election Board votes to appeal Shariah law ruling
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
12/01/10 at 4:49 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - The State Election Board voted Tuesday to appeal a judge's ruling that put a controversial state question banning Shariah law on hold.
The board voted 2-0 to appeal a temporary injunction issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange. The injunction was requested by Muneer Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Election Board Chairman Thomas Prince and member Ramon Watkins voted to appeal after a 30-minute executive session. Vice Chairwoman Susan Turpen was absent.
Awad sought to prevent the Election Board from certifying the results of the Nov. 2 election on State Question 755, alleging that amending the state Constitution to ban Shariah law singled out his Islamic faith for unfavorable treatment. He alleged that it violated the First Amendment ban on passage of laws respecting a religion, among other things.
Shariah law is Islamic law and is based on the Quran and teachings of Muhammad. If SQ 755 is tossed out, it would not mean that Oklahoma courts would be required to use Shariah law.
Oklahoma courts do not use Shariah law now, but supporters called the measure pre-emptive.
Awad is expected to request a permanent injunction barring the measure from ever taking effect.
State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax and the three board members were named as defendants in the lawsuit.
"State Question 755 was approved by the people in a lawful election on Nov. 2," a statement released by the Election Board said. "The State Election Board's duty in this matter is purely ministerial: to canvass the results of the election and certify the results to the governor.
"However, as the named defendants in this matter, we believe the state has an obligation to put forth the best defense possible of a lawful election by the people."
State Question 755 passed with more than 70 percent of the vote.
Awad said the state Election Board and the Attorney General's Office have no compelling interest in seeking State Question 755 to become law. The risk the authors of the measure claim to be protecting does not exist, he said.
"There are a number of political pressures that would force them to appeal," Awad said.
Awad said he is comfortable having the court consider the validity of his claims.
"State Question 755 poses a clear violation of my religious freedoms," he said. "Throughout American history, the courts have found in favor of the Constitution."
Awad said he is confident that that tradition will continue.
Original Print Headline: Board to appeal Shariah law ruling
Barbara Hoberock (405) 528-2465
Muneer Awad: "State Question 755 poses a clear violation of my religious freedoms," the executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said. "Throughout American history, the courts have found in favor of the Constitution."