North Carolina has become the seventh state to explicitly prohibit Sharia law interpretation in court after Gov. Pat McCrory denied vetoing House bill 522.
McCrory, a Republican, refused to sign the bill, entitled "Foreign Law/Protect Constitutional Rights," calling it "unnecessary." However, he also did not actively veto the bill, and therefore the piece of legislation automatically became law on Monday.
The bill, sponsored by six Republican representatives, seeks to protect the constitutional rights of those involved in family court matters, including domestic and child abuse cases, by prohibiting judges from interpreting "foreign law," including the Islamic Sharia law, or a set of legal codes imposed by the teaching of Islam, as well as Jewish law.
Those in support of the bill argue that its purpose is to protect the constitutional rights of citizens, especially women and minorities, but those opposing the bill argue that it is meant to target Sharia law and creates a sense of Islamophobia, or prejudice towards members of Islam, in the state.
The bill contains no specific language referencing Sharia law, but those opposed to it argue that its similarity in text to other state bills proves it is meant to prevent Sharia law interpretation. Additionally, one Republican member of the state Senate supporting the bill announced during legislative session in July that the bill's purpose was to prevent Sharia law interpretation.
"Unfortunately we have judges from time to time [...] that sometimes seem to forget what the supreme law of the land is, and sometimes make improper rulings," Sen. E.S. "Buck" Newton, the legislation's Senate sponsor, previously told the News&Observer.
Carl Ernst, a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina, told the school's newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, that the legislation is designed to stir up anti-Islamic prejudice. Ernst echoes the sentiment of the legislation's other critics, who argue the bill is unnecessary since there are already federal protections against foreign law interpretation in court.
"[The legislation is] primarily designed to stir up anti-Islamic prejudice by creating fears that Islamic Sharia law is somehow going to take over the American legal system," Ernst told the university's newspaper.
North Carolina now joins Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Tennessee in prohibiting judges from interpreting foreign law.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a similar bill earlier in June, arguing that it could endanger a family's option of adopting a child from a different country.
"There are certainly problems facing our state and nation, but this isn't one of them," he said at the time of the veto, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"The laws passed in Jefferson City have real consequences. This bill could jeopardize a family's ability to adopt children from other countries," the democratic governor added, referencing the state's capital of Jefferson City.