Judges asks why Oklahoma's law on Sharia applies to only one religion

Denver, USA - Judges who will decide whether Oklahoma can ban Islamic law from the state's courts raised questions Monday about the effect of the ban and why it applies to only one religion.

“There's no mention of any other specific law,” Judge Scott Matheson of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said during oral arguments about the ban voters approved in November by a wide margin.

“We just have Sharia law singled out,” Matheson said as he questioned Oklahoma Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick, who argued in defense of the ban becoming part of the state constitution.

“The intent here was to exclude Sharia law and international law,” Wyrick responded.

Oklahoma City Muslim Muneer Awad, with support from Islamic believers in other parts of the United States, claims in a court challenge that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution's protection for freedom of religion.

Another of the three appellate judges who will decide whether the ban will take effect, Terrence O'Brien, wondered if it would affect the preferences of people of other religions in child custody court cases.

Wyrick assured the judge the ban would not apply in those circumstances.

Awad's ACLU attorney, Micheal Salem, of Norman, cast the outlook in a different light. “It will only take 50 percent plus one to ban the next religion.”

“This was a pre-emptive strike against a religion they singled out,” Salem said.

Oklahoma voters approved the ban, known as State Question 775 — the “Save Our State” amendment — with 70.08 percent of the ballots.

The measure's principal author, former state Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, called it a pre-emptive strike, due to a growing threat from Islam, to keep liberal state judges from considering Sharia.

A few weeks later, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange, in Oklahoma City, enjoined the Oklahoma State Election Board from certifying the election results.

She did so because she concluded that it is likely a subsequent court decision will declare the ban to be unconstitutional.

The election board's position is that SQ 775 does not violate the Constitution's protection of religion because it has a secular legislative purpose, neither advances nor inhibits religion and will not result in an excessive entanglement between the state and religion.

There was no indication Monday how soon the Denver-based appeals court will decide whether to allow Miles-LaGrange's preliminary injunction to remain in effect.

Salem told the judges the ban “will condemn every person of Islamic belief in the state of Oklahoma. They will no longer be welcome.”

He said SQ 775 would favor all other religions.