Shariah Charade: Kansas Lawmakers Needlessly Ban Islamic Law

While death by stoning is a form of punishment in a few countries, does anyone seriously believe that would ever happen in the United States?

While the rest of us are busy worrying about the economy, partisan gridlock in Washington or maybe even the Facebook IPO, the Kansas legislature has been busy fighting off a perceived “threat” from shariah law.

Seriously.

A bill that sits on Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk would ban state courts and other government agencies from basing rulings on laws or legal systems other than those of the United States. The language of SB 79 doesn’t specifically mention shariah – Islamic law – but several state senators said that’s what they want to target.

“They stone women to death in countries that have shariah law,” said Sen. Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), according to the Lawrence Journal-World. “If you vote to not adopt [the bill], it’s a vote against women.”

While death by stoning is a form of punishment in a few countries, does anyone seriously believe that would ever happen in the United States? To even entertain that possibility is a nonsensical farce. 

Nonetheless, Kansas legislators thought quite highly of the bill – it breezed through both the Kansas Senate (33-3) and the Kansas House of Representatives (120-0). 

One of the few to vote against the legislation, Sen. Tim Owens (R-Overland Park), rightly raised the point that banning shariah law is totally unnecessary.  According to the Journal-World, he said that our courts are already governed by the legal code of the United States as well as the Constitution, which separates religion and government. Owens also asserted that the legislation sends the message that Kansas is hostile to anyone who doesn’t believe in the ideals of the Religious Right.

Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, agreed with Owens, insisting that the measure could make it difficult for some to choose Islamic marriage contracts, implement Islamic wills or be buried based on their religious customs.

On top of that, in January a federal appeals court struck down a state constitutional amendment in Oklahoma that banned shariah law. While the Oklahoma scheme did mention shariah by name, the ruling casts serious doubt on the constitutionality of the Kansas plan.

If Kansas legislators are so concerned with protecting women, as Sen. Wagle said, they should stop introducing bills like HB 2598. This measure, backed by the Religious Right and already passed by the House, would force doctors to lie to women seeking abortions about the risks of the procedure.

Lawmakers who actually care about women don’t force doctors to lie to them, and we all know this anti-shariah proposal isn’t about “saving” anyone from radical judges and cruel sentences. It’s about sucking up to the Religious Right.

Brownback hasn’t said what he will do with the anti-shariah bill, but stoning it would seem an appropriate response.