A federal appeals court today unanimously upheld a ruling that blocked implementation of an Oklahoma state constitutional amendment that would have prohibited state courts from considering what is broadly described as Islamic “Sharia law” and “international law.”
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that by singling out Islam for unfavorable treatment in state courts, the law likely violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The court rejected the state’s argument that the constitutional amendment was necessary to protect against improper application of Sharia law, explaining:
As the opinion states: “Appellants do not identify any actual problem the challenged amendment seeks to solve. Indeed, they admitted . . . that they did not know of even a single instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law or used the legal precepts of other nations or cultures, let alone that such applications or uses had resulted in concrete problems in Oklahoma.”
Rutgers School of Law–Newark Clinical Professor Penny Venetis published an article discussing the unconstitutionality of the Oklahoma statute both on First Amendment grounds, and also as a violation of the Supremacy Clause. That article (“The Unconstitutionality of Oklahoma’s SQ 755 and Other Provisions Like It, Which Bar State Courts From Considering International Law,” Cleveland State Law Review, 2011) was cited extensively by the litigants who challenged the law.
Professor Venetis can be reached for comment at 917-617-3524.