Court upholds injunction against Shariah law ban in Oklahoma courts
BY ROBERT BOCZKIEWICZ World Correspondent
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
1/11/12 at 7:05 AM
DENVER - An appeals court on Tuesday said Oklahoma's ban on the consideration of Islamic Shariah law in the state's courts "is likely unconstitutional" and kept in place an injunction against the voter-approved measure.
"While the public has an interest in the will of the voters being carried out ... the public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual's constitutional rights," the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals said.
The Denver-based court ruled 3-0 that the rights of an Oklahoma City Muslim, Muneer Awad, likely would be violated if the ban on Shariah law takes effect.
"When the law that voters wish to enact is likely unconstitutional, their interests do not outweigh Mr. Awad's in having his constitutional rights protected," the judges wrote in a 37-page decision.
Awad sued to block the "Save Our State" constitutional amendment, approved by 70 percent of Oklahoma voters on Nov. 2, 2010.
The measure, also known as State Question 775, bars Oklahoma state courts from considering or using Shariah law.
Awad contended the measure stigmatizes him and others who practice the Muslim faith, limits results Muslims can obtain from the courts and would prevent his last will and testament from being probated in Oklahoma because the will has references to Shariah law.
The appellate judges concluded the amendment "would disfavor (only) his religion," in violation of the U.S. Constitution's provision stating, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
The 10th Circuit decision upholds a preliminary injunction issued a few weeks after the election by U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange in Oklahoma City.
She found merit in Awad's position and issued the injunction barring the Oklahoma State Board of Elections from certifying the election results. The board, represented by the state attorney general's office, appealed.
The measure's principal author, former state Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, called it a pre-emptive strike to keep state judges whom proponents characterize as liberal from considering Islamic law because they view Islam as a growing threat.
The appellate judges said state officials admitted "they did not know of a single instance" where an Oklahoma court had applied Shariah law.
The election board contended the measure does not violate the Constitution's protection of religion because SQ 775 has a secular purpose, neither advances nor inhibits religion and will not result in excessive entanglement between the state and religion.
Awad, in a statement issued in Washington by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Tuesday's decision "is an important reminder that the Constitution is the last line of defense against a rising tide of anti-Muslim bigotry in our society."
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said his office "will continue to defend" the state's position when the case returns to Miles-LaGrange to determine if the amendment violates the U.S. Constitution.
The amendment defines Shariah law as Islamic law based on the Quran and the teachings of Mohammed.
Awad, head of the Oklahoma office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the amendment is among 20 similar pieces of legislation introduced in state legislatures nationwide.
Original Print Headline: Court upholds Shariah law order