In 2010, a legal decision in New Jersey incited national debate when Judge Joseph Charles decided not to grant a restraining order to a Moroccan woman who had been raped, according to legal standards in the United States, by her ex-husband. The reason given was that the judge accepted the Muslim man’s argument that under Sharia Law, he had done nothing wrong, and that ruling against him would violate his religious rights as enumerated in the 1st amendment.
As a result of this ruling and the potential for others like it, several states across the U.S. enacted anti-Sharia law statutes, including Oklahoma. However, after Oklahoma’s “Save Our State Amendment” passed, it was overturned by a higher court due to its targeting of one specific religion, specifically Sharia law, again citing that such a law violates the 1st amendment.
Judge Charles was wrong in his decision, but Oklahoma legislators reacted wrongly as well, and the higher courts were charged with making it all right. Many conservatives were upset the Save Our State Amendment was overturned, but they shouldn’t have been. If a statute can lawfully target the Muslim faith, one could lawfully draft laws targeting Christian faith as well.
American legislators define American law in their respective jurisdictions. There should not be a need to specifically exclude Sharia law, because unless Sharia law verbiage happens to be on that jurisdiction’s register, it should never be considered in the first place. The exception being in civil court where Sharia law may have been part of a contract.
Rape is not excusable under U.S. law because of religious views, so Judge Charles simply made an improper ruling that needed overturned—no additional legislation needed. If the man had killed his wife in an honor-killing, would the judge still have come to the same conclusion?
While I applaud Oklahoma and other such states attempting to take measures to prevent this in the future, the higher courts are there to reverse such decisions, and there are mechanisms in place to remove judges who go afoul of the law they are charged with adjudicating. Oklahoma didn’t need to amend their state constitution, they merely needed to deal with a judge violating his oath to uphold it.
If they truly felt it was necessary to elaborate, the Oklahoma legislature could have simply wrote something to the effect of the following:
The criminal court of Oklahoma may not consider laws which are not specifically on the United States Federal Register, Oklahoma State Register, or any applicable local registers as an argument for innocence or guilt.
It is succinct, and doesn’t target any single religion.
However, there’s a deep hypocrisy here with many conservatives. A majority of them are Christian, and they were the ones most vocal about prohibiting Sharia law, yet they often have no qualms about legislation such as blue laws or the proposed Defense Of Marriage Act.
Blue laws have curiously stood up to constitutional challenges because proponents have argued that while they were enacted as a way to force people to conform to a religious doctrine of the Sabbath, it can also be viewed as merely the government in question, ordering a day of rest, and does not necessarily have a religious component, making it okay.
Somehow the Supreme Court agreed—but how? It’s not a day of rest, it’s a day of not being able to buy alcohol. If they closed down all business on Sundays, then and only then would it be a forced day of rest.
More important, what business does government have telling you when to rest in the first place? Why not tell me when I have to go to bed then? Maybe force me to take a nap too, while we’re at it.
As for the Defense of Marriage act, it is entirely contrary to the purpose of the Constitution. It was never intended to be a dictionary to define something such as marriage, nor was it intended to tell the people, in this case the gay community, what rights they have. One look at the Bill of Rights and it’s clear that it was written to define limits to the federal government, not the people. The Volstead Act (Prohibition) was the first attempt at perverting the Constitution in such a manner, also largely based on religious doctrine, and that was rightfully repealed a short time later. All such acts imply the government has the power, not the people.
As for blue laws, the supreme court did something in declaring these laws constitutional that I think violates their oath of office.
The Supreme Court Justices are sworn to uphold the Constitution, not the will of the majority. If we were a democracy, a system where only the majority opinion mattered, instead of a republic with a Constitution, we would have no need for them.
But we have a Constitution, and it exists to protect the rights of the minority from the majority. The Supreme Court is charged with interpreting it as written. What the SCOTUS did was find away to allow the majority to deny rights to the minority (atheists like myself), instead of judging these laws on their merits against the Constitution.
In so doing, they undermined the purpose of them being appointed, not elected, so that they don’t act on popular opinion. They behaved like legislators instead of guarantors of our rights.
Christians upset about Sharia Law arguments being allowed in criminal courts are absolutely right to be upset. But they must cease to endeavor to make American laws congruent with Christian doctrine also, or they are no better than the cause they are fighting against—hypocrisy destroys credibility.