Under the invisible threat of Sharia law taking over their courts, Oklahoma enacted a constitutional amendment that would prohibit Sharia law from being considered, reports Daily Kos. A district court granted a preliminary injunction, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed.
A few weeks ago, the District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma granted a permanent injunction, effectively throwing out the amendment.
The "Save Our State" Amendment
The Oklahoma House of Representatives, Senate and citizens voted for the "Save Our State" Amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution, which read, part:
The Courts . . . when exercising their judicial authority, shall uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the United States Constitution, ... and if necessary the law of another state of the United States provided the law of the other state does not include Sharia Law, in making judicial decisions. The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia Law.
Two days after the ballot vote on the amendment, plaintiff filed a claim seeking an injunction prohibiting the certification of election results on the grounds that the amendment was not constitutional. The district court granted the preliminary injunction, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed.
Larson Test Analysis
The question before the district court was whether they should grant a permanent injunction which would prohibit the certification of election results, and thus prohibit the addition of the "Save Our State" amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution. The court determined that is must apply the strict scrutiny Larson test as espoused by the Supreme Court, that is, Oklahoma must show a compelling state interest and that the amendment is "closely fitted" to achieving that compelling state interest.
Here, the court found that Oklahoma did not have a compelling state interest. In fact, Oklahoma didn't even "identify an actual problem" and admitted "that they did not know of even a single instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law." Without fulfilling the first prong of the test, meeting the second prong was impossible.
Because a constitutional right was at issue, the court also noted that the problematic language was not severable, that the loss of First Amendment rights would result in irreparable harm, and the harm to plaintiffs would outweigh the harm to Oklahoma. For these reasons, the court granted the permanent injunction against certifying the election results.
Preemptive Amendments Won't Pass Muster
Disturbingly, this type of law (constitutional or not) could be a trend, with six other states passing similar laws, the Huffington Post notes. Just days ago a North Carolina law went into effect (without the Governor's signature) that would ban the consideration of Sharia law in North Carolina courts, reports The Daily Tar Heel.
Post-9/11 or not, peoples' prejudices do not create compelling interests to restrict the religious liberties of citizens. The right to free exercise is one of our nation's most precious, and absent an actual problem, states will have a hard time proving a compelling interest to discriminate on the basis of religion.
- Tenth Circuit to Hear Arguments in Anti-Sharia Law Case (FindLaw's U.S. Tenth Circuit Blog)
- Tenth Circuit: Anti-Sharia Law Doesn't Survive Larson Test (FindLaw's U.S. Tenth Circuit Blog)
- Awad v. Ziriax (FindLaw's CaseLaw)