An amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that would have prohibited state courts from considering sharia law when deciding cases was blocked by a federal judge. The amendment would have also prohibited considering international law as well. A restraining order has been issued to block implementation pending the outcome of a November 22 hearing by U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange.
Constitutional Rights Are Questioned
SQ 755 was approved with 70 percent of the vote on November 2, but its fate is now in the hands of the courts. Muneer Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma, filed a lawsuit claiming his constitutional rights were being violated by the amendment. His argument was that it was an attack on his faith, and that Islam was the target of SQ 755.
Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, the author of the amendment, attended the hearing and expressed surprise over the ruling. Duncan argued that the ruling thwarted the will of the people, and was never intended as an attack on Islam. He says that SQ 755 was an effort to prevent activist judges from relying on Islamic or international law when deciding cases in Oklahoma.
First Amendment Questions
Awad’s lawsuit alleges that SQ 755 violates the first amendment regarding government’s establishment of religion. Critics charge that it was Miles-LaGrange, and not the state that established a defacto law by issuing the restraining order. Rep. Duncan concedes that the Muslim presence in Oklahoma is very small and that currently sharia law rulings would not be an issue. His idea is that it would never become an issue.