BOISE – Amid growing concerns about Muslim immigration, state lawmakers Thursday advanced legislation prohibiting Shariah law or any other foreign statutes from influencing Idaho courts. But the bill’s future remains uncertain.
Lawmakers are considering the measure despite drawing criticism last year when they rejected an international treaty that made it easier for single parents worldwide to collect child-support payments. The measure was designed to align Idaho’s child support laws with those outlined in federal statute, but it drew suspicion from Republicans who worried about the influences of Shariah law in child support cases.
However, under mounting pressure, lawmakers reversed their decision in a special session that cost taxpayers thousands.
The latest bill would keep Idaho courts and government agencies from basing rulings on foreign laws that don’t supply the same rights guaranteed in the U.S. and state constitutions.
Worries about the spread of Shariah have surfaced in several states in recent years, often resulting in proposals to restrict the use of foreign law in state courts.
Opponents say the measures amount to anti-Islamic fear-mongering, and note that Shariah law – a strict interpretation of the Quran and the Prophet Mohammed’s teachings – has never trumped U.S. state or federal law. Supporters, meanwhile, say the proposals aim to protect states’ rights in a globalized world.
In Idaho, the House State Affairs Committee sent the latest measure to the House floor for amendments Thursday after both Republicans and Democrats expressed concerns about how it would affect international contracts, like adoptions and commercial deals between the state’s agricultural sector and other countries. Shariah law isn’t specifically mentioned in the bill but was the center of the discussion and testimony.
The committee’s decision to seek revisions was not related to the criticism lawmakers received last year over the child support measure, said its chairman, Republican Rep. Thomas Loertscher of Iona.
“I don’t think that was a big deal,” Loertscher said. Instead, “I think it was a series of things in the bill that gave everybody pause.”
It’s unknown if House lawmakers will amend and vote on the bill before the Legislature adjourns in the next week.
Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, and other conservatives hope they do.
“I like the general direction of where this is headed – that we are going to tell our judges and our courts that you are going to use American laws and Idaho laws when you are making your rulings and interpretations,” Crane said.
The bill represents rising fears of Shariah law and Muslim immigration in Idaho. Last year, a former Muslim-turned-evangelical pastor met with several lawmakers in the Statehouse, warning about Shariah law’s impact in rural parts of the state, and more recently he has called for restrictions on Syrian and Muslim immigration.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Eric Redman of Athol, maintains Shariah law is seeping into U.S. and European court cases.
“Invoking foreign law and foreign legal doctrines … is a means of imposing an agenda on the American people, while circumventing the U.S. and state constitutions,” he said.
To date, there are no known Idaho court decisions that have been influenced by Shariah law.
Redman said 10 other states have passed similar measures.
Meanwhile, another House committee approved a separate bill Thursday that would expressly allow the Bible to be used in public school instruction. Senate Bill 1342 is headed to the House floor for a vote.
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