BOISE An Idaho House panel has passed an anti-Sharia law bill that would prevent foreign laws from being used in Idaho court rulings.
HB 419 would make Idaho and U.S. law the only law that state courts can rule on, providing exceptions for tribal laws. It’s the third time Rep. Eric Redman, R- Athol, has proposed foreign-law legislation.
HB 419 does not specifically mention Sharia law, but much of Redman’s presentation of the bill focused on it.
“Sharia is distinctly different from other religious laws like Jewish law and Catholic cannon, it is distinctly different from other secular, foreign laws. This distinction rests in the fundamental Sharia doctrine that it must rule supreme in a jurisdiction where Muslims reside,” Redman told the committee Thursday.
Redman referred to a study by the Center for Security Policy (CSP) that cited 136 cases in the U.S. ruled using foreign laws. None of the CSP’s 2015 study documents any cases in Idaho, nor did Redman specify cases in Idaho in his presentation.
Redman said the bill is not an anti-Sharia law. “This bill is not simply about Sharia and other foreign laws, but also trans-nationalism, or in other words the documented creep of foreign and anti-public-policy laws being recognized by state and federal courts,” he said.
Foad Roghani, a Meridian resident who is a practicing Muslim, said he does not understand the bill’s purpose.
“I have never seen anyone talk about Sharia law or pushing to change any of the laws of this state or this country based on Sharia law,” he said. “Because of this, I do not understand the purpose of this bill.
“HB 419 is anti-Muslim and anti-American,” Roghani said. “Discriminating against Muslims based on cultural stereotyping is unconstitutional and un-American. We cannot trade away our civil liberty.”
In April 2017, Redman shared a video on Facebook entitled “How Is Sharia Law Dangerous for Western Society?,” and said in the post, “This is the exact reason the Idaho State Legislature needs to pass… ‘Idaho and American Laws for idaho Courts’ in the 2018 legislature session.”
HB 419, called “American and Idaho Law for Idaho Courts,” is modeled after national legislation from the American Public Policy Alliance.
Eleven states — Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Louisiana, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Washington — prohibit the use of foreign laws in their state courts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Oklahoma’s law was struck down by a federal judge in 2014 because of its specific mention of Sharia law. The policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, Kathy Griesmyer, recalled that history in relation to Redman’s bill.
“While perhaps the legislation has been sanitized to avoid a legal challenge, we still know the history of this legislation. And that history is intended to target members of the Muslim faith,” she said.
Reps. Dustin Manwaring, R-Pocatello, and Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, were the two members of the House State Affairs Committee who voted against the bill.
“Idaho courts are already protecting our freedoms and laws, and I feel this bill is unnecessary,” Smith said.
Neither Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, nor her substitute, Margie Gannon, were present for the vote. Jordan’s resignation was officially filed Wednesday morning. Jordan resigned to focus on her campaign for governor.
HB 419 goes to the House floor.
– Kyle Pfannenstiel covers the 2018 Idaho Legislature for the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.