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.
â€œIt's certainly not a matter to be taken lightly with what is at stake here,â€ 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 â€” in State Question 755 â€” with more than 70 percent of the vote. Legislators called the measure the â€œSave Our Stateâ€ 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 â€œxenophobic merchants of fear and hate.â€
â€œIt's an evil that needs to be stamped out, and it needs to start here,â€ 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.
â€œI am asking the court to find this amendment unconstitutional because it targets my religion,â€ 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, â€œEverything I do will be forbiddenâ€ from consideration in the courts.
He specifically complained the amendment would keep Oklahoma Muslims from making religious discrimination claims â€œbecause they're not allowed to bring up their faith.â€
He also said he would have to change his last will and testament, which stipulates he is to be buried in accordance with Sharia law.
He acknowledged later he prepared the will Nov. 4, the same day he filed his lawsuit over the amendment.
The state's attorney, Boughton, called Awad's concerns speculative. â€œThey're putting the cart ahead of the horse, judge,â€ he said.
The measure's principal author, former state Rep. Rex Duncan, a Republican, has called it a â€œpre-emptive strike â€¦ against a growing threat.â€ He said it will keep liberal judges in check.
Duncan on Nov. 2 was elected district attorney for Osage and Pawnee counties.
He watched Monday's hearing from the back of the crowded courtroom.
Duncan on MSNBC this year said, â€œThis is a war for the survival of America. It's a cultural war. It's a social war. It's a war for the survival of our country. In other states â€¦ they've looked away too long, looked to the other way and kowtowed to political correctness (and) have lost an opportunity, perhaps, to save their state.â€
Awad put into evidence a recording of Duncan's MSNBC interview.
The judge said she watched the interview during a break in the hearing.
Another supporter of the measure, state Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, also watched from the back of the courtroom. â€œThis is a manufactured lawsuit,â€ he told reporters after the hearing ended.
Among the critics of Sharia law are four Virginia-based nonprofit groups â€” U.S. Border Control, U.S. Border Control Foundation, The Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, and Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Filing a friend-of-the-court legal brief for them was former state Rep. Kevin Calvey, who lost a congressional bid this year.
â€œWe want to make sure in Oklahoma we're never going to have a case of marital rape or all these other horrible things that people have alleged (happen) under the guise of Sharia law,â€ Calvey told reporters after the hearing.
He also was critical of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has been linked elsewhere to fundraising for a terrorist group.
â€œThis is a bad organization. They claim to speak for all Muslims, but they don't,â€ Calvey said.