State lawmakers across the U.S. have started 2012 with a controversial message to their judges: keep foreign laws out of our courtrooms.
Twenty-one states are considering measures that would prohibit judges from applying the laws or legal codes of other nations in a wide variety of cases. Three states—Tennessee, Louisiana and Arizona—recently added versions of such laws to the books, while a fourth—Oklahoma—worked a similar change into its constitution in 2010.
The movement is motivated largely by a handful of organizations that claim Islamic Sharia law and, to a lesser degree, laws of other nations, are creeping into courtrooms and American life, especially in divorces and child-custody disputes. Sharia, loosely defined as a set of moral and religious principles in Islam, is woven into the legal systems of many Muslim nations. It covers issues ranging from what to eat and drink to structuring a loan to setting up an inheritance and divorce, among other things.