Joanne Bregman, Eagle Council 2010
Thank you for inviting me to participate with everyone.
First I need to tell you that in 2004 Mrs. Schlafly was already talking about the core issue addressed by the "TN Law for TN Courts" bill. She aptly identified the problem posed by the activist-slash-liberal-slash-reconstructionist judges who seem intent on using foreign law to interpret our Constitution and in this way erode the principles upon which our country was founded.
Before I address the bill, I want to thank Rep. Wimmer for doing some of the more difficult work on this bill in its first run through a state legislature. I hope he takes it up again in the next Utah session. And of course I want to thank Bobbie Patray for giving me the opportunity to work on this bill in Tennessee.
The "TN Law for TN Courts" bill addresses the question of whether we should allow our constitutional liberties to be interpreted or in any way encroached upon by the application of cultural norms or foreign nation laws that are deemed discordant with American constitutional principles.
Having passed the bill, now in Tennessee, whenever state courts, arbitrators, mediators, or other administrative entities, are asked to either apply a foreign law or enforce a judgment from a foreign tribunal, the TN decision-maker must first determine whether doing either, violates a US or state constitutional liberty. If so, (and assuming there has not been a knowing waiver of rights by the parties), then a decision must be rendered that preserves the constitutional rights.
Oklahoma is another state that is trying to address the application of foreign law in state court decisions. Even more specifically, the Oklahoma initiative has targeted Shariah law. The TN law (and LA which passed a similar bill last session), also reaches issues involving Shariah, sometimes referred to as Islamic law. As defined by the bill, Shariah law is a "foreign law, legal code or system." When Shariah is applied, it violates our constitutional liberties. I think on the this anniversary of 9/11 this is an especially relevant piece of legislation to be discussing.
I greatly appreciate the effort in Oklahoma to obstruct the infiltration of Sharia law. It is important to recognize that because the reach of Sharia law is all encompassing, lawyers and judges will struggle to recognize when the application of Sharia law is in issue. For this reason, it is equally important that we pass legislation that will impede the encroachment of the full beadth of Sharia law. I respectfully suggest that Oklahoma should consider legislation similar to Tennessee's to provide pragmatic clarification for their lawyers and judges.
So why did we take on this legislative initiative in Tennessee? Bobbie and I had developed a relationship with the Center for Security Policy and through them became aware of Rep. Wimmer's efforts in Utah. When we started to look at case law in Tennessee, while not abundant, we found examples where reference to cultural influences were recognized by the courts. We also learned that Tennessee had earlier passed a female genital mutilation bill in recognition that despite the protected status of this practice in other countries, it would not be a protected practice in Tennessee. We understood that judges do not always reach the correct decisions even when constitutional rights are at stake, and that the policy in this regard needed to be articulated by the legislature.
We also saw the TN Law for TN Courts bill as a legitimate vehicle to arrest the creep of Sharia into our state's jurisprudence. We know that the single issue that binds the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, CAIR, ISNA, ICNA and every other Islamist Muslim Brotherhood spin-off group, is the professed goal of supplanting our Constitution with Sharia law.
If you go online to the Muslim Brotherhood website, you can read in their by-laws in Art. 3, the following:
The Islamic nation must be fully prepared to fight the tyrants and the enemies of Allah as a prelude to establishing an Islamic state.
There is neither a geographical nor political boundary for the Islamic state because the Muslim Brotherhood defines Islam as a political and social ideology indistinguishable from their religious beliefs all of which is reflected in the Sharia law.
And how does this relate to the Tennessee bill? Sharia is an anti-constitutional doctrine. It is imperative to understand that the application of Shariah law in the United States is a 6th Amendment NOT a 1st Amendment issue.
I would encourage all of you to consider undertaking this legislative initiative in your home states. In light of the GZM controversy and imam Rauf's platform promoting Sharia as consistent with and complimentary to our Constitutional framework, I believe we need to equip our judiciary and state decision-makers with the LEGAL tools to repel these efforts.
Were we to accept Rauf's framework, we would also have to accept that a recent family court decision in New Jersey is somehow reconcilable with our protected liberties. In that case, the family court judge acceded to the premise that because the woman's sexual abuse by her ex-husband was within his Muslim beliefs, the denial of a restraining order was proper.
A 2009 Michigan state court case is even more to the point. In this case, a Muslim couple originally from India but now living in Michigan, separated. The husband subsequently traveled to India and performed a Sharia compliant divorce wherein he recited the triple talaq. When the wife contested the divorce back in Michigan, the trial court dismissed her complaint in recognition of the Indian divorce. I believe the Michigan appellate court got it right however, when they reversed the lower court, finding that the Indian divorce violated the wife's due process and equal protection rights and additionally, was contrary to the public policy of the state.
There is also the case of a forced child marriage (allowed under Sharia) which ended up in a New York state court. In that case fortunately, a cultural defense was unsuccessful. The court held that the forced marriage of a 13 year old violated public policy as well as the constitutional rights of the minor.
Importantly, in none of the cases I have cited to you, did the court ever recognize that it was dealing with Sharia law. So you see how easily Sharia can creep into our jurisprudence and state level courts and administrative agencies are easily infiltrated. These cases also illustrate the importance of ensuring that our constitutional protections remain inviolate and intact.
If you don't know already, you may be surprised to learn that Texas has at least one Islamic sharia court. A 2003 Texas state court decision sanctioned the existence and decision of the Texas Islamic Court. This is yet another way that a parallel system of law develops. We need only to look at Britain where there are now over 85 state sanctioned sharia courts which are also adjudicating cases involving non-Muslims.
Some examples of how Sharia violates or is discordant with our constitutional civil liberties include:
· Sharia does not allow for free speech as we know it under the 1st amendment. Sharia makes blasphemy which is any form of expression that casts Islam and its prophet in a poor light, a capital offense
· There is no freedom of religion under Sharia; the punishment for a Muslim who leaves Islam (known as an apostate), is death.
· There is no equal protection under the law. Women have no equal rights under sharia and there are different laws for non-Muslims. There are different classes of people under Sharia - a kafir or non-Muslim is never equal to a Muslim.
· With regard to the 8th amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment, sharia punishments allow for stoning for adultery (o12.2), amputating the right hand for a first theft offense over a certain dollar amount, the left foot for a second theft offense, the left hand for a third and finally, the remaining limb of right foot for a further theft offense (014.1)
· There is no due process of law. A woman's testimony is worth only half of a man's. A man may divorce a woman simply by reciting the talaq.
· And perhaps even more importantly, Sharia does not recognize man-made law
Qaradawi, a Muslim cleric also described as a Muslim Brotherhood ideologue recently commented that for Muslims to accept the West's secular code of laws in place of their Sharia is equivalent to apostasy.
I invite anyone to contact me should you be interested in advancing this legislation in your state. I also want to mention one resource I inadvertently left off the reading list. The Hudson Institute website has very useful articles in particular about the Muslim Brotherhood. Their website is www.hudson.org