A legislative wave is surging through the nation's heartland: In Tennessee, Louisiana and Arizona, lawmakers have passed statutes prohibiting courts from relying on any foreign law, legal code or system that is contrary to state or federal public policy in reaching their decisions. Similar statutes are being considered in 20 other states.
In some of these statutes and bills, Sharia, or traditional Islamic religious law, is explicitly cited; in others it is not. In either case, civil libertarians and Muslim groups denounce them as efforts to target Islam. And those pushing for these laws don't deny this.
Republican State Rep. Sally Kern, who sponsored such a bill in Oklahoma, stressed the political potency of the movement, saying, "It's always helpful when you can say to your colleagues, 'This piece of legislation is practically identical to about 20 other states.'"
One reason those statutes and bills may be similar is the model set out for such legislation two years ago by a little-known Lubavitch-affiliated attorney living quietly in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. Through his "American Laws for American Courts" project, David Yerushalmi, a specialist in securities, business and international law, has offered legislators a template that claims to sidestep constitutional objections to singling out Islam by avoiding explicit mention of it (though not all state legislatures have taken this advice).