Late last week, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange in Oklahoma City ruled that a state amendment prohibiting courts from considering Sharia law when ruling in cases was unconstitutional.
In her decision, the judge said that because the amendment discriminated among religions, the state had to demonstrate a compelling state interest to justify it — something Oklahoma failed to do:
For an interest to be sufficiently compelling to justify a law that discriminates among religions, the interest must address an identified problem that the discrimination seeks to remedy.[The state] simply asserts that “Oklahoma certainly has a compelling interest in determining what law is applied in Oklahoma courts.” Oklahoma’s asserted interest is a valid state concern. But this general statement alone is not sufficient to establish a compelling interest for purposes of this case. [Defendants] do not identify any actual problem the challenged amendment seeks to solve. Indeed, they admitted at the preliminary injunction hearing that they did not know of even a single instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law or used the legal precepts of other nations or cultures, let alone that such applications or uses had resulted in concrete problems in Oklahoma.
Given the lack of evidence of any concrete problem, any harm [defendants] seek to remedy with the proposed amendment is speculative at best and cannot support a compelling interest.
North Carolina lawmakers passed a similar bill in July, with a similar lack of evidence that courts were applying Sharia or other foreign law here. That bill, H522, does not expressly ban Sharia law, although that was the intent, as reflected in statements by lawmakers prior to the bill’s passage.
It is now on the governor’s desk, awaiting signature.