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North Idaho Rep. Redman brings back anti-Sharia bill

Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, in his office at the Idaho Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 (Betsy Z. Russell)

BOISE – A North Idaho representative re-introduced a bill that would prevent Sharia law from being used in Idaho courts.

The House State Affairs Committee agreed on a party-line vote to introduce the measure Wednesday.

Reading from a prepared statement, Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, said, “State legislators have a role to play in protecting constitutional rights and American values of liberty and freedom.” His bill, he continued, would preserve liberties and freedoms “(from) encroachment of foreign laws and legal doctrines.”

The bill would declare void any court ruling that relies on any foreign law that doesn’t match U.S. or Idaho protections for due process, freedom of religion, speech, press, privacy and marriage. This year’s version includes a series of amendments the House added to the bill last year, which Redman described as “technical.” “Essentially, it really is the same bill,” he said.

The measure doesn’t specifically mention Sharia law, but Redman acknowledged that’s one of his main concerns. “I guess the terminology I use is do you bring in the smoke detector after the fire or before the fire,” he said. “One of the overreaches is certainly the Sharia law.”

He said, “We have freedom of religion here, but they don’t have the right to bring their Sharia law overreach on our constitutional laws.”

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 it could affect other types of foreign laws as well. “Like Japan has some different laws where they don’t give the proper due process and things that we offer,” he said.

Last year, the bill drew fervent opposition from Idaho parents of children adopted from overseas, who said it would interfere with the legal proceedings that were required for them to complete their adoptions.

The only “no” votes on introducing the bill came from Reps. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, and Eva Nye, who is filling in for Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello. Jordan asked Redman a series of questions about the bill, including whether it would impact international trade. Redman told her it’s “been fine-tuned” and said he doesn’t believe it would impact trade or contracts.

House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said, “I think it’s just a clarifying bill to make sure that people know that they’re dealing with American law.”

Last year’s bill was sent by the same committee to the full House for amendments; it was amended, but then never came up for a final vote. Similar legislation that was proposed last year on the Senate side never was taken up in a Senate committee.

The committee’s vote to introduce the bill clears the way for a full committee hearing.