Several Muslim leaders said the constitution was the winner Monday when a federal judge barred the Oklahoma Election Board from certifying an amendment prohibiting state courts from considering international or Sharia law.
U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange issued a temporary restraining order on the certification and said she will take the matter up again on Nov. 22 to determine whether a preliminary injunction is warranted.
At issue is a voter-approved amendment barring Oklahoma courts from considering international law or Sharia law when making decisions.
Muneer Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the amendment as unconstitutional. He sought the restraining order and a preliminary injunction to keep the state election board from certifying the amendment.
Awad, representing himself, told Miles-LaGrange that Oklahoma judges would have to consider Sharia law in order to avoid it, and they first must define what it is and what it isn't. He said the definition of Sharia law depends on the person defining it, and people in the Muslim community often view it differently. He said the amendment publicly condemns Islam as a "threat to Oklahoma."
Awad said his constitutional rights will be violated by the amendment because it defines what "my faith is and what my faith is not."
Assistant Attorney General Scott Boughton argued that Awad did not have standing to speak to the court in requesting the temporary restraining order. Boughton said Awad, in his arguments, failed to show that the amendment represented a present or imminent injury. Boughton told the judge that a temporary restraining order would "frustrate the will of the Legislature and the will of the voters who cast votes in the last election."
When Miles-LaGrange asked whether Boughton had written briefs of his arguments for her review, Boughton said his office had not had a chance to file written briefs.
Miles-LaGrange took a 35-minute recess to consider the arguments.
In explaining her ruling, the judge said she found Awad had standing to request the temporary restraining order. She said the temporary restraining order would be in effect for 14 days, giving the attorney general's office time to file written briefs and Awad to file a response, if he deemed it necessary.
Outside the courthouse, Awad told reporters that all residents of Oklahoma, not just Muslims, would benefit from his challenge of the Sharia law amendment.
"It was in the public's interest to do this," he said.
One of the other local Muslim leaders who attended Monday's hearing agreed.
"The constitution won today," said Imad Enchassi, president of the Islamic Society of Oklahoma City.
The two authors of the amendment, called State Question 755 on the Nov. 2 ballot, said they were disappointed in Miles-LaGrange's ruling. Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, and Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, said they believe Awad's lawsuit thwarts the will of the voters. The measure was approved by 70 percent of voters.
Duncan said he was disappointed that the attorney general's office had not filed written briefs with the court.
"It's a little disappointing that the state has filed no briefs. They just showed up this morning," Duncan said.
Sykes said he was looking forward to Attorney General-elect Scott Pruitt getting involved in the case.
Duncan said while Oklahoma courts have yet to consider Sharia law, the measure was "targeting activist judges who want to make up the law as they go.
"It's a pre-emptive strike against activist judges."