ByÂ Matt Sedensky-Associated Press
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. â€” A measure to ban the use of foreign laws in domestic courtrooms is progressing inÂ Florida’s statehouse, one of dozens of similar efforts across the country that critics call an unwarranted campaign driven by fear of Muslims.
Forty such bills are being pursued in 24 states, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures, a movement opponents call a response to a made-up threat of Shariah law, the Islamic legal code that covers many areas of life. Backers of the bills say they fill a glaring hole in legal protections for Americans.
â€œThere have been all sorts of wild accusations about what this bill does,â€ saidÂ Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who sponsored theÂ SenateÂ bill in Florida. â€œThis is very clear, very simple: In American courts we need American laws and no other.â€
If passed, Florida would join three other states â€” Louisiana, Arizona and Tennessee â€” in approving legislation curtailing the use of foreign laws. An Oklahoma ballot measure got 70 percent approval, but it goes a step further in specifically mentioning Sharia, the Islamic system of law. A federal court has blocked the measureâ€™s implementation until its constitutionality is determined.
TheÂ twin HouseÂ andÂ SenateÂ bills in Florida make no mention of Shariah law or any other specific foreign system. The language of the legislation, in fact, seems innocuous, outlawing the use of foreign law only when it violates rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and only in certain domestic situations, such as divorces and child custody cases. It does not apply to businesses and says it shouldnâ€™t be construed to prohibit any religious organization from making judgments in â€œecclesiastical matters.â€
But thatâ€™s done little to quiet critics who see such legislation as right-wing fear mongering.
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