After more than two hours of testimony both for and against the bill, the House State Affairs Committee has voted to approve Rep. Eric Redman’s anti-Sharia law bill, with just two dissenting votes. The two dissenters were Reps. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, and Dustin Manwaring, R-Pocatello; Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, wasn’t present, nor was her substitute who’s filled in for her earlier this week, as she submitted her resignation from the Legislature today. All other committee members supported Redman’s bill, which he calls “American Law for American Courts.”
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 Sharia in decisions was overturned in federal court in 2013. Redman said his bill could affect other types of foreign laws as well.
Redman, R-Athol, shared stories of atrocities in other countries he attributed to Sharia law; Muslim citizens of Idaho told the committee that’s not how they practice their religion.
His bill, HB 419, would declare void any court ruling that relies “in whole or in part on any foreign law” that doesn’t match U.S. or Idaho protections for due process, freedom of religion, speech, press, privacy or marriage. The bill doesn’t specifically mention Islamic Sharia law, but it was the focus of both Redman’s comments and of numerous questions from several members of the committee.
After all the testimony, Redman told the panel, “One comment I heard was that I could possibly be a bigot. Well let me tell you something: My middle daughter is a teacher from Olympia, Wash., is married to a refugee from Cambodia and he is a Muslim. This is not about the religion.”
Rep. Smith said, “I just want to say that Idaho courts are already protecting our freedoms and laws and I feel this bill is not necessary, so I’ll be voting no.”
The committee vote moves HB 419 to the full House for debate and a vote.
At the same time the hearing was going, Gov. Butch Otter was taking questions from Idaho reporters at an annual Idaho Press Club event. Asked about the anti-Sharia law bill, he said, “I guess I can’t appreciate the concern. The courts are going to enforce our laws. The courts are not going to enforce some other country’s laws.”
He noted that in his nearly 12 years as governor, he’s appointed numerous judges, including district judges throughout the state, three of the four judges on the Idaho Court of Appeals, and three-fifths of the Idaho Supreme Court. Otter said he’s always questioned judicial candidates about “the enforcement of our laws,” and is confident that’s where Idaho judges are focused.
This is the third year that Redman has proposed the bill. In 2016, it was sent by the same committee to the full House for amendments, after it drew heavy flak from Idaho parents of children adopted from overseas, who said it would threaten the process by which such adoptions win legal approval. The bill was amended, but then never came up for a final vote. Last year’s version didn’t get a hearing.