Judge extends ban on Oklahoma Sharia law amendment

Ban on a Sharia law amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution will stay in place for a week while U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange studies the issues.
BY NOLAN CLAY AND CARLA HINTON Modified: November 23, 2010 at 10:00 am •  Published: November 23, 2010

An Oklahoma City federal judge says she needs more time to decide if a voter-approved restriction against Islamic law should be kept out of the state constitution.

“It's certainly not a matter to be taken lightly with what is at stake here,” U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange said at the end of a two-hour hearing Monday.

At issue is an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that forbids state courts from using or considering international law or Islamic Sharia law in making decisions.

Oklahomans on Nov. 2 approved the amendment — in State Question 755 — with more than 70 percent of the vote. Legislators called the measure the “Save Our State” amendment.

An Oklahoma City Muslim, Muneer Awad, 27, is challenging the amendment, saying it demonizes his faith.

His attorney, Micheal Salem, on Monday called the measure's supporters “xenophobic merchants of fear and hate.”

“It's an evil that needs to be stamped out, and it needs to start here,” Salem told the judge.

The judge is being asked to issue a preliminary injunction against the amendment.

The judge on Nov. 8 agreed to a temporary restraining order preventing the state Election Board from certifying the SQ 755 results. On Monday, she extended that temporary order for a week.

The judge said she must weigh the will of a large majority of voters against an individual's rights to the protections found in the U.S Constitution, particularly the First Amendment.

Hearing mostly focused

on Muslim's testimony

The judge Monday twice asked what the purpose of the state question was.

Assistant Attorney General Scott Boughton told her it was to keep Oklahoma courts from looking to the precepts of other nations or cultures in applying the law.

The judge then asked if that has happened in Oklahoma. Boughton said he did not know of any instances where Sharia law had been used in Oklahoma courts.

Awad is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma. Much of the hearing Monday involved his testimony.

“I am asking the court to find this amendment unconstitutional because it targets my religion,” he said.

He said Sharia law guides how he lives his life, including such things as smiling at others as an act of charity.

He said of the amendment, “Everything I do will be forbidden” from consideration in the courts.

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