January 2011 Church & State | AU Bulletin

An Oklahoma ballot measure that singled out Muslims for religious discrimination has been blocked by a federal district court.

The measure, State Question 755, passed in November with 70 percent of the vote. The amendment would revise the state constitution so that “courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia Law.”

A lawsuit against the amendment was filed by Muneer Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma Council for American–Islamic Relations.

U.S. District Court Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange issued a preliminary injunction in Awad v. Ziriax, to stop the Oklahoma State Board of Election from certifying the election results.

In her written opinion issued Nov. 29, Miles-LaGrange doubted the constitutionality of the amendment.

“While defendants contend,” observed the judge, “that the amendment is merely a choice of law provision that bans state courts from applying the law of other nations and cultures, regardless of what faith they may be based on, if any, the actual language of the amendment reasonably, and perhaps more reasonably, may be viewed as specifically singling out Sharia Law, conveying a message of disapproval of plaintiff’s faith.”

Americans United opposed the Oklahoma proposal because it served no legitimate purpose. Government imposition of religious law is already barred by the First Amendment.

“It’s just fear mongering tinged with anti-Islamic sentiment,” Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, told USA Today.