An Oklahoma City federal judge Monday ruled against a voter-approved restriction on Islamic law.
In a 15-page order, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange continued to keep the restriction out of the Oklahoma Constitution. Her ruling was a victory for an Oklahoma City Muslim leader who had complained his constitutional religious rights were in jeopardy.
â€œWhile the public has an interest in the will of the voters being carried out â€¦ the Court finds that the public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual's constitutional rights,â€ the judge wrote.
At issue was a constitutional amendment that forbids state courts from considering or using international law or Sharia law. The amendment describes Sharia law as Islamic law based on the Quran and the teaching of Mohammed.
Oklahomans on Nov. 2 approved the amendment â€” in State Question 755 â€” with 70.08 percent of the vote. Muneer Awad, 27, an American-born Muslim, sued two days later. The judge on Nov. 8 blocked the state Election Board from certifying the SQ 755 results.
The order Monday continues the freeze on those results.
The order is a preliminary injunction, not a permanent one. Still, the state Election Board could appeal now.
The state attorney general's office was considering its options, a spokesman said. A key supporter of the measure, state Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, said, â€œI was disappointed but not surprised. We look forward to working with the AG's office on it.â€
Awad is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma. â€œIt is another positive step,â€ he said after the ruling.
â€œThe initial filing of the lawsuit was a rough time,â€ Awad said, â€œBut we've noticed since then a tremendous outpouring of support from Muslims and non-Muslims. We are confident we have supporters who want to see this amendment fail. It's not just about the Muslim community. It's about Oklahoma. The nation â€” the world â€” is watching.â€
Imad Enchassi, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said, â€œJustice has been served.â€
In Monday's order, the judge wrote that Awad â€œhas made a strong showing that State Question 755's amendment's primary effect inhibits religion and that the amendment fosters an excessive government entanglement with religion.â€
The judge rejected the state's argument that the amendment is a broad ban on state courts applying the law of other nations and cultures regardless of what faith they may be based on.
She wrote, â€œThe actual language of the amendment reasonably â€¦ may be viewed as specifically singling out Sharia law, conveying a message of disapproval of plaintiff's faith.â€
The judge wrote: â€œThis order addresses issues that go to the very foundation of our country, our (U.S.) Constitution, and particularly, the Bill of Rights. Throughout the course of our country's history, the will of the 'majority' has on occasion conflicted with the constitutional rights of individuals, an occurrence which our founders foresaw and provided for through the Bill of Rights.â€
Quoting from a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court decision, she wrote, â€œOne's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.â€
The judge said any harm to the state in delaying certification of the results is minimized because the amendment â€œwas to be a preventative measure and the concern that it seeks to address has yet to occur.â€
Legislators called the measure the â€œSave Our Stateâ€ amendment. The measure's principal author, former state Rep. Rex Duncan, a Republican, has called it a â€œpre-emptive strike ... against a growing threat.â€
Critics of Sharia law contend it could be used as a defense in state courts to such barbaric practices as marital rape.