BOISE – Rep. Eric Redman, R-Post Falls, introduced his first bill on Wednesday: a measure seeking to ban recognition of Sharia, or Islamic, law in Idaho courts.
Redman distributed stacks of handouts to the Idaho House Ways and Means Committee, including a photo of a severed hand and printouts from websites critical of Islam. The committee voted 4-3 along party lines to introduce the bill.
The bill follows model legislation developed by the American Public Policy Alliance, a nonprofit that warns of foreign laws infiltrating the U.S. court system and has gotten similar laws passed in several states. A 2010 Oklahoma constitutional amendment forbidding that state’s courts from considering Sharia law in decisions was overturned in federal court in 2013.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, voted against the bill saying, “There is no issue right now, there is no issue. And to bring this piece of legislation and the supporting documents that showed severed hands and called the Prophet Mohammed a pedophile was just beyond the pale.”
Rusche said even introducing the bill “makes us look really bad yet again, and especially to companies that have international markets.”
He added that numerous bills on “substantive public policy” didn’t get a hearing in the same committee, including bills on raising the minimum wage, an earned income tax credit and education. Redman’s bill could die there, too; it’s up to House Speaker Scott Bedke to decide where to assign the measure after the committee agreed to introduce it.
Redman said he heard about the idea at a conference in Texas hosted by a group called “WallBuilders,” headed by evangelical Christian activist David Barton.
Redman, who has been a state representative for two years, said he’s been working on the bill since September. He said he’s concerned that family-law cases in the U.S. could be influenced by foreign or Sharia law, though Idaho has had no such cases.
“You’ve got ISIS, San Bernardino,” he said. “There’s a lot of issues that are very challenging, and we want to keep our state from getting into those challenges. That’s why I spent so much time working on it and researching it.”
Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane wrote in an attorney general’s opinion requested by Redman that the bill does not appear to violate the federal or state constitutions.
Asked why this issue was such a priority for him that he made it his first bill in two years as a state representative, Redman, who just this week announced he’s running for re-election, said, “I think it’s an important bill to put through. Like I say, I think it’s like potatoes to Idaho – it’s Idaho law, and we want to protect it.”
Rusche said, “Obviously the Republican leadership thinks it’s more important to protect Eric Redman’s right flank than to work on good public policy for the state of Idaho.”