An Oklahoma amendment that bans state judges from consulting Islamic law has been blocked from going into effect.
Judge Vicky Miles-Lagrange issued a preliminary injunction on Monday, ruling that the amendment "fosters an excessive government entanglement with religion."
Muneer Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, filed a lawsuit after 70 percent of state voters passed Referendum Question 755 which states: "This measure ... makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law."
It was approved early this month.
Awad alleges the amendment violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause that bars government bodies from making laws respecting the establishment of religion.
Judge Miles-Lagrange issued a temporary restraining order a few days after the amendment passed. Imposing an injunction on Monday, she concluded, "The court finds that plaintiff has shown that he will suffer injury in fact specifically, an invasion of his first amendment rights will be violated by Oklahoma's official condemnation of his religion/faith."
The judge sided with Awad and his explanation that Sharia law is "not actually 'law' but is religious traditions that provide guidance to plaintiff and other Muslims regarding the exercise of their faith."
For example, though in Islam one can marry more than one wife, Muslims in the United States do not do so because Sharia mandates that they abide by the law of the land, the judge said, citing Awad.
Jim Denison, president of the Center for Informed Faith, said Muslims relate to Sharia in the modern world in three ways.
"Some adopt a dual legal system where the government is secular but Muslims can choose to bring familial and financial disputes to Sharia courts," he wrote in Associated Baptist Press.
"A second view is that government must exist under God, where Islam is the official religion and Sharia is a source or the source of all law," he said, listing Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as among the countries where this view is implemented.
"A third view is that the government should be completely secular."
Punishments under Sharia for such acts as unlawful sexual intercourse and alcohol consumption, he explained, range from flogging, stoning, amputation and exile to execution.
Regarding the debate in Oklahoma, Denison said whatever comes of the legal battle there, "it is clear to me that 'a free church in a free state' is the American ideal."
"The Founders wanted a country where people of all faiths and those of none could follow their religious beliefs without government entanglement," he stated.
Former Republican state Rep. Rex Duncan sponsored the amendment after expressing concern that American courts were increasingly consulting Sharia law to decide matters pertaining to the U.S. Muslim community.
Concerned that it may be an issue in the state’s future, Duncan posed, "Why wait until it’s in the courts?"