"Anti-Sharia" law comes before Florida Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday

Posted by Mitch Perry on Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 11:34 AM

GOP state Senator Alan Hays.
  • GOP state Senator Alan Hays.
One of the bills that will be discussed this Tuesday morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Tallahassee is Senator Alan Hays' SB 386: Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases, aka the "Anti-Sharia" law.

It's the fourth year in a row that Hays has attempted to pass legislation aimed at banning the use of Sharia laws in the court system, and it's being opposed this year by the Florida Family Rights Coalition, comprised of the Anti-Defamation League, the ACLU, the Community Business Association of Florida, and Emerge USA, a grassroots organization focusing on the Muslim, Arab and South Asian American communities.

If passed, the bill would have outlawed the use of “foreign law” in family court cases.
"I would say that the bill’s sponsors themselves and all the lawyers working on this issue have yet to be able to present one issue in our Florida court system where a judge decides to overrule someone’s constitutional rights to apply a foreign law," says Laila Abdelaziz, regional director for Emerge USA. 

The proposal has come extremely close to becoming law during the past two legislative sessions. In 2012, the bill died in the Senate during the last night of session.

Abdelaziz calls the law "a vaccine to an issue that does not exist, frankly, in our court system."

While appearing before the the Civil Justice Subcommittee last week, House sponsor Alan Combee (R-Polk County) admitted when asked by Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, that aren't any Florida cases that this bill would rectify,

One of the few organizations in Florida supporting the bill is the Florida Family Association, led by Tampa's David Caton, best known for his extremely conservative view — some would call it hateful— on the LGBT community.The proposal has come extremely close to becoming law during the past two legislative sessions. In 2012, the bill died in the Senate during the last night of session.

Opponents say the bill is a piece of model legislation drawn up by noted anti-Muslim activist David Yerushalmi. Similar legislation has been enacted into law in several states, including Louisiana, Tennessee, Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, South Dakota and Oklahoma. In the Sooner state, however, a Federal Judge struck down the law, saying it violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

Comments (3)

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NO courts should be influenced by foreign law. Their only legal jurisdiction is U.S. Constitution, Amendments, state constitution, local ordinances. Any judge deciding on any other basis must be removed from office by election or law enforcement.

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Posted by Lou Starr on 03/25/2014 at 12:18 PM

No courts SHOULD be influenced by it, doesn't mean they won't be. Especially when our judges are more and more liberal. Take the judge in MA that said Justine Pelletier shouldn't be with her parents. His hostile response is an indication that many judges aren't using good judgment.

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Posted by Sarah Killeen Poulin on 03/26/2014 at 10:17 AM

Mr. Starr, there is confusion on this. There are at least two issues to consider here. One is whether religious "law" of any kind should be applied by American courts. The other is whether the court should ever apply foreign law - that is, the laws of other nations.

The Constitution forbids courts from applying religious law. It is unnecessary for any state to outlaw this, because the Constitutional law on this, which applies to state courts, already prevents it. For instance, if a court is asked to decide whether food labeled under religious laws meets the standards under those religious laws, the court is forbidden to make that decision. Or if a court is asked to decide whether child custody or property disputes are being handled in accord with religious law, the court cannot make those decisions. Where an odd court has strayed into religious decision-making, they have been over-ruled by higher courts.

Foreign law is a different matter. In order to apply American law to some situations, like marriage and divorce and child custody, and in order to decide some other issues, like whether a person is a citizen of another country, American courts must know a person's status as decided under foreign law. It would be crazy for American courts to refuse to recognize marriage or citizenship status in someone's country of origin. That would mean, for example, that a person residing in the U.S. who was married under the law of a foreign nation would have to get remarried here in order to be legally considered married. Someone with child custody from a divorce settlement in another country would have no legal right to custody of their own children. And if a person is a citizen of another country, but no citizenship status under another country's laws is recognized, how does this country apply immigration quotas and treaties?

So it is necessary to apply foreign law, and it is already forbidden to apply Shariah law. The fact that Mr. Hays and other state legislator don't even understand the difference between the two, and don't understand what court are constitutionally required to do, makes them especially bad at proposing laws on these matters.

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Posted by jfhickey on 03/26/2014 at 10:38 AM
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