The Idaho House on Tuesday approved North Idaho Rep. Eric Redman’s anti-Sharia law bill by a nearly two-to-one margin, the furthest Redman has gotten with his proposal in three years of trying.
The bill, which passed on a 44-24 vote, 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. It doesn’t specifically mention Islamic Sharia law, but that’s been the focus of debate over Redman’s proposal.
Redman, R-Athol, told the House that while no Idaho judge has made a decision based on foreign laws, it could happen. “We dare not wait to install the smoke detector after the fire,” he said, adding that there have been “multiple instances” in other states in which judges based their rulings on foreign laws.
At an earlier committee hearing, Redman 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.
Tuesday’s vote sends the bill to the Senate, where it would need to clear a Senate committee, pass the full Senate, and receive the governor’s signature to become law.
When House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, asked Redman for an example of a case in which a U.S. judge has based a ruling on foreign law, he cited a New Jersey case in which he said a judge refused to grant an abused wife a protection order because, following testimony from the husband’s imam, the judge ruled that the husband was merely acting according to his religious beliefs that he had a religious right to have sex with his wife whenever he wanted.
Erpelding asked, “Was this upheld in appellate court or Supreme Court, or was it overturned?”
Redman responded, “I honestly can’t tell you that for sure.”
Later in the House debate, Erpelding said he’d found the case in question. “The case that is constantly presented in this case was remanded back to the court by the New Jersey Superior Court,” Erpelding said. “They said, ‘We are satisfied the judge was mistaken in deciding not to issue a restraining order.’ … So this woman was protected. My point is that judges make mistakes. I am super doubtful that this thing would protect us from judges making mistakes. In this case and all the cases listed, they were remanded back to the lower court and they were overturned.”
Redman said 13 states including Washington have adopted such laws since 2010, “and there have been no negative effects to foreign commerce, adoptions or religious freedoms.”
Washington’s law, enacted in 2015, is a two-paragraph clause in that state’s 38-page Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, appearing on the next-to-last page, after numerous other sections specifying when foreign court orders do apply in child custody and support cases. It says, “Washington’s courts, administrative agencies, or any other Washington tribunal shall not recognize, base any ruling on, or enforce any order issued under foreign law, or by a foreign legal system, that is manifestly incompatible with public policy.”
Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, told the House, “The thrust of this bill is to recognize that there are religious foundations in civil law. The particular complaint we have here is that this focuses on Sharia. Sharia may have a religious foundation, but it is a civil code, a civil process, and that civil process is in direct contravention to American jurisprudence … and the foundations of American civil law.” Barbieri said, “These two conflict.”
Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, said, “While I agree completely with the concerns that the good gentleman has, that we don’t want foreign law recognized in our Idaho courts, our judges swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States and our laws.”
She said, “I live with a judge during session, and I would never question her integrity in this way, and I would hope she would not question the integrity of the Legislature in this way. We’re the ones that probably could make the laws that would impose Sharia law in the state, and I can’t imagine that ever happening, and I can’t imagine our judges allowing that to happen either, so I’m going to vote against this bill.”
Redman said in his closing debate, “This body makes the laws and our judicial system interprets them. This is a bill, a statute that’s gone thru 13 different states, and I repeat, even our neighbor Washington state, and the whole purpose of it is that we will not have any foreign law defile our constitutional laws. I urge you to vote for this to protect our state and our country.”
This is the third year that Redman has proposed the bill. In 2016, it was sent 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.
Redman based his bill on model legislation from the American Public Policy Alliance, which is headed by Louisiana attorney Stephen Gele and promotes the concept to states under the title “American Laws for American Courts.” As he has before, Redman read large portions of his opening debate verbatim from information posted on the group’s website.
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