This week in cognitive dissonance: A Georgia lawmaker who sponsored a bill that would allow more prayer in schools is also pushing a measure explicitly designed to smear Islam and marginalize Muslims.
State Rep. Dustin “Dusty” Hightower introduced House Bill 895, which, if passed, would require state courts to ignore “foreign law” in decisions. While the bill makes no specific references to Islam or Muslims, it is quintessential anti-sharia legislation.
The official name of the measure is American Laws for American Courts, the exact title used by the legal architect behind each of the seven existing anti-Shariah laws in the United States, David Yerushalmi. This is the same David Yerushalmi who is known for making derogatory statements about Muslims, blacks, women and immigrants and who serves as the legal counsel for the anti-Muslim group Stop Islamization of America, led by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.
To justify this legislation, Hightower cites an “independent study” conducted by Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy to argue that at least 50 cases exist where judges ruled according to Shariah over U.S. law. Gaffney is one of the foremost anti-Muslim actors in the United States and Yerushalmi serves as CSP’s general counsel.
In what has almost become an anti-Muslim script, Hightower said, “This bill is not only about Shariah law. It also addresses the documented creep and threat of foreign and anti-public policy laws being recognized by state and federal courts in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.”
Despite the hysteria, the establishment clause of the Constitution prevents courts from favoring or scrutinizing one religion more than another. Earlier ALAC bills explicitly targeted Shariah and Muslims until 2012 when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that Oklahoma’s voter-approved measure to ban Shariah in state courts was unconstitutional. Now, most ALAC bills have avoided mentioning Shariah and instead refer to most “foreign laws,” a tactic that creates problems of its own.
It is not uncommon for state and federal courts to sometimes refer to foreign laws in their adjudication, though the establishment clause makes it highly unlikely that foreign laws would supersede U.S. law. Yerushalmi and others within the anti-Muslim camp know this. The only point of ALAC bills is to stoke anti-Muslim fear and justify profiling, spying, suppressing refugee rights, holding up mosque construction and other discriminatory policies.
“If this thing passed in every state without any friction, it would have not served its purpose,” Yerushalmi told the New York Times in 2011. “The purpose was heuristic — to get people asking this question, ‘What is Shariah?”
Georgia is one of 24 states being targeted this year by the anti-Muslim grassroots organization ACT! for America. If it passes, Georgia would join the ranks Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee where anti-Sharia measures are already on the books.
To learn more about how anti-Shariah legislation poses problems to the everyday lives of all religious communities, check out the Feb. 27 webinar with the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign.