With an eye toward the 2012 elections, legislators in six states have been debating laws explicitly prohibiting courts from considering or using Sharia law, with 14 more looking at wider bans on "foreign law." They're taking a clear cue from Oklahoma's wildly popular Sharia ban, which voters approved as a state constitutional amendment last year by more than 70 percent.
Such laws are discriminatory and pointless. Civil liberties groups are fighting them in court and calling on state legislators to abandon such bills. But there is an additional reason everyone, including would-be proponents of the laws and the federal government, should oppose them: they pose a significant threat to national security.
To begin with, the bans' justifications are thin. Despite the worries voiced by candidates in the recent Republican candidates' debate in New Hampshire, no state, county or municipality is about to realign its laws with religious doctrine, Islamic or otherwise. Nor does any state or federal court today in Oklahoma, or anywhere else, need to enforce a foreign rule repugnant to public policy. Under the legal system's well-established "choice of law" doctrines, the courts are already unlikely to help out someone who claims their religion allows, say, the subordination or mistreatment of women.