Between 2010 and 2012, lawmakers in at least 32 states introduced bills to restrict the circumstances in which state courts can consider foreign or religious laws in their decisions. During this period, six states – Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee – enacted such bills into law. The Oklahoma law, which explicitly banned judicial consideration of Islamic law (or sharia), was struck down in 2010 when a federal district court ruled that the law infringed upon Muslims’ constitutional rights. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision on the Oklahoma law in January 2012. The other five states still have their restrictions on judicial consideration of foreign or religious law on the books.
The laws enacted in Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota and Tennessee have broader, more neutral language than the 2010 Oklahoma law and do not mention sharia or other religious laws by name. Indeed, only 21 of the 92 bills introduced between 2010 and 2012 cite sharia or other religious laws directly. The text of many of the remaining 71 bills is similar or identical to model legislation known as “American Laws for American Courts” (ALAC). The template was drafted by David Yerushalmi, a New York attorney who has become a leading anti-sharia spokesman, and is promoted by the American Public Policy Alliance, an advocacy organization that works with state legislators on public policy initiatives. According to the organization’s website, the model law is intended to ensure that Americans’ constitutional rights are not infringed by state courts’ consideration of foreign or religious laws, including sharia. (For more on religious law and judicial systems, see Applying God’s Law: Religious Courts and Mediation in the U.S.)
Click on a state to read about the legislation proposed or enacted there to restrict the use of foreign or religious law in state court decisions. On the Bill Details tab, click on a bill number to read additional bill details on the state legislatures’ websites.