Many state legislatures have introduced bills to enforce “foreign law bans.”  Although these bills may appear innocuous on their face, their real purpose is to stoke anti-Islamic rhetoric and exploit the unfounded fear that Sharia law is taking over US courts.  These bills are inspired by the American Public Policy Alliance, which unashamedly seeks to “protect American citizens’ constitutional rights against the infiltration and incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines, especially Islamic Shariah Law.”  The Establishment Clause, however, already prevents the Courts from imposing Sharia law in our courts.  In addition, judges are already empowered to ignore any foreign law that would conflict with our laws and public policies.

Federal Courts have struck down as unconstitutional legislation that explicitly targets Sharia law.  To circumvent these rulings, state legislators began introducing bills that ban the use of “foreign law.”  These bills are still highly problematic because they disparage an entire religious community and feed into a manufactured fear that Sharia Law is being implemented in US courts.

Furthermore, these bans could cause real harm to those whose faith traditions include enforcement of contracts by religious tribunals.  For example, anti-Sharia laws could be used to invalidate a Jewish pre-marital contract.  And, these laws’ blanket prohibition on courts to consider any foreign law could affect those trying to deal with common legal matters such as alimony, divorce, or adoption, if they involve international law.

AU has opposed nearly ten anti-Sharia bills within the past year, and will continue to oppose repeated efforts by state legislatures to promote similar legislation.

Additional Resources:

  • AU letter opposing Florida Senate Bill 386
  • AU blog post about foreign law bans

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