Rep. Eric Redman, R-Post Falls, introduced his very first bill this afternoon: A measure seeking to ban recognition of foreign or Shariah law in Idaho courts. The House Ways & Means Committee voted 4-3, along party lines, to introduce the measure; Redman distributed stacks of handouts to the committee including copies of a photo of a severed hand and printouts from websites critical of Islam.
The bill follows model legislation developed by the American Public Policy Alliance, a group headed by Louisiana attorney Stephen Gele that promotes the concept to states, and has gotten it passed in several. A 2010 Oklahoma constitutional amendment forbidding that state’s courts from considering Shariah in decisions was overturned in federal court in 2013.
The group’s website says, “One of the greatest threats to American values and liberties today comes from abroad, including foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines which have been infiltrating our court system at the municipal, state and federal levels.”
Redman said he heard about the idea at one of 10 conferences for state lawmakers that he attended over the summer, eight of them at his own expense; this one, in Texas, was hosted by a group called “WallBuilders,” headed by Texas evangelical Christian activist David Barton. “I met with some individuals that were very involved with it,” Redman said, adding of Barton, “He’s a constitutional expert.”
Redman said he’s been working on the bill since September. Asked why he distributed the graphic handouts including the photo of the severed hand, with a caption saying, “According to Shariah law, theft is punishable by amputation of the right hand,” he said, “I guess because there’s so many countries that are fundamentalist in Shariah law, and that does happen – it isn’t something that doesn’t happen any more in the Middle East.”
He said, “I’m not concerned about that part of it happening in the U.S.” But he said he thought family law cases in Idaho could be influenced by foreign or Shariah law, though Idaho’s had no such cases. “And I don’t want ‘em to be in Idaho,” Redman said.
“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.”
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said, “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, who voted against introducing the bill, said, “It makes us look really bad yet again, and especially to companies that have international markets. And the other thing that bothers me is that this piece of legislation gets a hearing, and we have substantive public policy, just because it was brought by a Democrat, that is put in the dustbin in Ways and Means.” Numerous Democratic bills, on everything from raising the minimum wage to an earned income tax credit to education, have been assigned to that leadership-dominated committee to die. 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.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane wrote in an attorney general’s opinion requested by Redman that the bill does not appear to facially violate the federal or state constitutions. “However, as applied, the legislation may present contract impairment issues” under both the state and federal constitutions, he wrote.
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.”
The American Public Policy Alliance was formed in 2009; according to the group’s website, its model bill has passed in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona and Kansas.