Bill Banning 'Foreign Law' Passes North Carolina House

A highly-debated North Carolina bill forbidding the application of "foreign law" in domestic and child abuse cases passed the state's House vote Thursday.

Although the text of the bill makes no mention of it pertaining to Shariah law, many argue that its close representation to other states' bills proves that its goal is to prevent the interpretation of Shariah law in state courtrooms.

House Bill 695, which passed the North Carolina House Thursday by 69 to 42 vote, seeks "to protect its citizens from the application of foreign law that would result in the violation of a fundamental constitutional right of a natural person."

The bill, titled "Foreign Laws/Protect Constitutional Rights," only applies to domestic and child abuse cases, as those critical of the bill argued that unless otherwise specified, it would infringe on the rights of business owners in the state working in international markets.

Those who oppose House Bill 695 argue that it is unnecessary.

"It's unfortunate that North Carolina Republican leaders continue to waste taxpayers' resources with fringe policy proposals such as this. North Carolinians deserve a legislature focused on jobs, not potentially unconstitutional power grabs," Democratic Party spokesman Micah Beasley told The Huffington Post in reference to HB 695.

According to local news source WRAL, those in support of the bill argue that it takes the necessary steps to protect American citizens from being subject to foreign law in court.

"We do want to protect our citizens [and] this bill re-clarifies that," Laura McGee of the North Carolina Values Coalition, which supports the bill, told WRAL.

Additionally, House Rules Committee Chairman Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) told the local news station that "he didn't know of any cases in which North Carolina courts have allowed Shariah or any other foreign laws to infringe on anyone's constitutional rights, but he said the sponsors were trying to prevent that from happening."

According to data compiled by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, seven states have passed laws banning the use of foreign law within the past few years.

A similar bill was blocked by a judge in Oklahoma in 2010 because in addition to banning the use of of foreign law, it also specifically banned consulting Shariah law, and a federal judge ruled that the bill was likely to be found unconstitutional because it singled out a specific religion.

Another bill banning the use of foreign law passed Missouri's legislature last week, although that bill did not use specific language narrowing the bill to domestic and child custody cases.

Critics of the Missouri bill argued it would hinder international business deals and interfere with international adoption.

These criticisms caused lawmakers to amend the language in North Carolina's HB 695 to apply to domestic and child custody cases only, and many news sources argue that this amendment allowed the bill the pass the House Thursday.

Additionally, HB 695 does not make any mention of blocking Shariah law, which critics say is another reason it passed the house.

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina also filed a bill last month that would allow them to declare an official religion in the state, but the resolution was pulled from consideration by the state's Republican speaker of the House.

North Carolina's House Bill 695, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Chris Whitmire (R-Transylvania) and Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow), among others, will now head to the Senate for a vote.