U.S. judge permanently bans Oklahoma Islamic law vote

By TIM TALLEY, AP Modified: August 16, 2013 at 5:25 am •  Published: August 15, 2013
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A federal judge Thursday prohibited Oklahoma officials from certifying the results of a 2010 statewide election that approved a constitutional amendment to prohibit state courts from considering international or Islamic law when deciding cases.

U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange permanently enjoined the State Election Board and its secretary, Paul Ziriax, from certifying results of the vote in which State Question 755 was approved by Oklahoma voters. The measure was passed with 70 percent of the vote on Nov. 2, 2010.

Muneer Awad, former executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma, challenged the constitutional amendment in a lawsuit that claimed it would stigmatize his religion and would invalidate his will, which he said is partially based on Islamic Law, also known as Sharia Law.

CAIR's current executive director, Adam Soltani, said the decision reinforces a ruling Miles-LaGrange almost three years ago in which she approved a temporary restraining order barring certification of the election's results. That decision was later upheld by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

“We are safe to practice our faith without being demonized,” Soltani said. “It's also a victory for our Constitution that guarantees and protects freedom of religion.”

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented CAIR, said it will help secure religious freedom and equality for all Oklahomans.

“Throughout the case, the state couldn't present even a shred of evidence to justify this discriminatory, unnecessary measure,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

“The Supreme Court has held that international law is part of our law,” said Chandra Bhatnagar, senior attorney with the ACLU's Human Rights Program. “Preventing courts from considering foreign or international law raises serious questions about the separation of powers and the independence of courts and judges.”

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