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Eye On Boise

Testimony: ‘Terrible idea,’ ‘Harmful to religion,’ ‘Doubt on international adoption’

In testimony this morning on HB 568, the anti-Sharia and foreign law bill:

A.J. Ellis of Marsing, who said he’s an evangelical Christian, said, “This bill is a terrible idea for a number of reasons.” He said he was born in Idaho, but has friends from “Iraq, I have friends from India, Asia, even some from the people’s republic of California. Someone from a foreign country might need to use the court system to adjudicate a divorce or custody dispute herein Idaho. … Courts might have to determine whether a marriage was valid in the first place.” He added, “The supposed threat that this bill seeks to combat does not exist today in America.  ... .My great-grandma always told me that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. ... You’ll end up wasting time that could have been used for other things, and you’ll probably end up breaking something that wasn’t broken in the first place.”

Thomas Rogers, representing Rabbi Dan Fink of Boise’s Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel, said the bill would cause legal problems for observant Jewish couples whose civil divorces are based on rulings from a bet din, or religious court, either here or in Israel. “The measure is redundant, unnecessary and harmful to religion,” Rogers said. “We therefore urge the State Affairs Committee to reject this ill-advised legislation.” Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, hotly disputed Rogers’ comment, saying, “I don’t think you’ll find a committee in this body that is so pro-religion,” and Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, told Rogers that by his reading of the bill, “It is out of the question, it will not happen according to this bill.” Rogers responded, “I hope that’s true.”

Dan Anderson, the adoptive father of three children from Uganda, fought back tears. He said an American court could only recognize the international adoption after a Ugandan court ruled in favor of it. “They could not rely on that ruling by the Ugandan court if this legislation passed,” he said. When Nielsen told Anderson the bill wouldn’t affect that, Anderson said, “My reading of the attorney general’s letter and specifically the documentation of that calls that into question.”

Janelle Bettis Wise, who said she’s a “fifth-generation Idahoans and a committed Christian,” said, “I am worried that this law has unintended consequences. It may discourage international commerce that Idaho has worked so hard to achieve ... by rendering contracts void.” Also, she said, the bill casts “doubt on the international adoption that’s blessed me with my youngest child. ... I must know that my daughter’s legal foreign adoption will be given due deference by the Idaho courts.”

Kathy Griesmyer of the ACLU of Idaho said the bill would put Idaho families in an “untenable position” in family law cases and also interfere with international commerce, unless the country involved provides exactly the same legal and constitutional protections to its citizens as the United States.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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