News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

December 9, 2010

Sharia law not an issue in Indiana — or any other states

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana legislature faces a full plate of important issues in its upcoming 2011 session. The far-fetched fear of Sharia law — a strict interpretation of Muslim law — overriding the U.S. or state constitution in Indiana courts is not one of those crucial issues. It’s not even worthy of backburner status, especially amid education funding and reform proposals, jobs creation, local government restructuring and ethics, and health care.

Last week, Rep. Bruce Borders, a Jasonville Republican, said he intended to file a bill in the Indiana House to prevent the recognition of Sharia law in Indiana courts. Borders said he was acting on an idea by state Sen. John Waterman, R-Shelburn.

The bill, Borders said, would proclaim “that Indiana does not recognize Sharia law, or Muslim law. What that boils down to is there is a push in some states to recognize Sharia law with its own court system, as opposed to a state constitution or the U.S. Constitution.”

The problem is, this isn’t a problem. It’s not a problem in Indiana. It’s not a problem anywhere in the United States, including Oklahoma, the state that apparently sparked Waterman’s interest. Last month, Oklahomans overwhelmingly approved an amendment to their constitution to prohibit state courts from considering international law or Islamic law when deciding cases. Weeks later, a lawsuit challenging the amendment — calling it an infringement under the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights — prompted a federal judge to block implementation of Oklahoma’s amendment.

The judge’s temporary injunction clearly explains why such amendments are unconstitutional and based on unfounded fear.

U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange said her order “addresses issues that go to the very foundation of our country, our [U.S.] Constitution, and particularly, the Bill of Rights. Throughout the course of our country’s history, the will of the ‘majority’ has on occasion conflicted with the constitutional rights of individuals, an occurrence which our founders foresaw and provided for through the Bill of Rights.”

Not only that, but the Oklahoma amendment also could limit a judge’s ability to consider the Ten Commandments. “The Ten Commandments, of course, is international law. It did not originate in Oklahoma or the United States,” Joseph Thai, professor of law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, told The Associated Press. Besides, international law is only considered in cases involving a federal treaty, a business contract or a will that incorporates international law, Thai told The AP.

The one unmistakable reality in this situation is that religious freedom is clearly protected under the Constitution. Muslims should not be singled out. The paranoid political atmosphere helped drive the Oklahoma vote, with the amendment getting 70-percent approval. Indiana lawmakers should not get swept up in such a needless venture. Incoming House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, wisely imposed a 10-bill limit on House members to keep them focused on balancing the budget when the General Assembly gathers on Jan. 5. Borders’ bill would be nothing more than a distraction from that.

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