More than a dozen states now seeking protection from foreign law. via JuneauEmpire.com, State seeks to bar foreign law from courts
JUNEAU — An Alaskan lawmaker hopes to guard against Islamic Sharia law by prohibiting state courts from honoring foreign law that violates Alaskan or U.S. constitutional rights.
Though the bill’s language does not specifically target Sharia, Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, said the legislation is a reaction to what he sees as the growing use of international law codes in courts that have robbed people of their constitutional rights.
In a hearing before the House State Affairs Committee, Gatto’s chief of staff Karen Sawyer said Sharia is an example of the type of transnational law that has appeared in family law, divorce and child custody cases nationally, though she knows of instances of it appearing in Alaska courts.
“Sharia is clearly offensive to the U.S. Constitution,” Sawyer said. “It is the foremost foreign law that is impacting our legal system.”
Sawyer added that countries following Sharia law do not allow freedom of religion or equal rights to women.
Gatto called the law a preventative measure necessitated by the religious beliefs of recent immigrants.
“As a kid, we had Italian neighborhoods, Irish neighborhoods … but they didn’t impose their own laws,” Gatto said. “When these neighborhoods are occupied by people from the Middle East, they do establish their own laws.”
Sharia law is a set of Islamic principles and religious interpretations that have been adopted into the laws of certain countries, mostly in the Middle East.
The Alaska proposal is based on the American Laws for American Courts act, which has been proposed in several states and versions of which have been enacted in Tennessee and Louisiana, said David Yerushalmi, an Arizona-based attorney who supports the legislation.
In testimony before the committee, Yerushalmi said the law would protect people who are forced to litigate in any country with laws counter to U.S. constitutional protections, not just countries practicing Sharia law.
“Today, we are far more likely than ever before to have foreign laws in American courts,” said Yerushalmi. “There are plenty of occasions in which foreign law informs what Alaskan law could be.”
Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the Alaska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill was an unnecessary overreach, and adequate protections for religious freedom in court already exist.
“It’s a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist,” Mittman said.
While Committee chair and bill co-sponsor Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, said he hoped to move the bill out of committee after its first hearing, concerns from lawmakers on how the bill would affect agreements with Alaska Native tribes or neighboring countries led to the bill being held over for further consideration.
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One example of an offending transnational law is sharia – authoritative Islamic law that is applied as the law of the land in many countries around the world. Sharia is patently offensive to U.S. and Alaska constitutional law because it criminalizes apostasy (violation of Free Exercise of Religion) and blasphemy against Islam, Mohammed, and sharia itself (violation of Free Speech). Sharia also violates principles of due process and equal protection by discriminating against non-Muslims and women.
Countries that apply sharia as the law of the land include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, and Somalia. Many Muslim countries apply sharia as the law of the land in specific legal areas such as family law and inheritance. Examples of these countries and political regimes include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, parts of Indonesia, Gaza, Jordan, and Yemen. In addition, just about all Muslim countries have a de jure or de facto sharia supremacy clause which effectively does not allow any “secular” law to violate sharia’s fundamental principles of Islamic supremacy. Countries of this type include such “moderate” countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Afghanistan, and even Iraq.