It was revealed last week that anti-Muslim paranoia is going to cost the state of Oklahoma a lot of money in attorney fees.
$303,333 to be exact.
The hefty bill is a result of 2010 court case that challenged the constitutionality of an amendment aimed at banning Shariah law in Oklahoma.
In 2010, Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved the “Save Our State Amendment,” which was intended to ban state courts from recognizing Shariah law. It then passed the state legislature, but drew criticism because, similar to other bills of this nature, its goal was to marginalize Muslims.
As a result, Muneer Awad, an Oklahoma Muslim community leader, filed a lawsuit against the amendment, saying it stigmatized him and others of his faith, limit the results he can receive in courts, and prevented his will from being probated due to its references to Shariah. And he won. A Oklahoma City federal judge ruled the amendment unconstitutional and barred it from going into effect, a decision that was later upheld by the U.S. Tenth Circuit of Appeals in 2012.
On May 14, 2014, a U.S. judge ruled that Oklahoma will be picking up the tab for the legal fees Awad incurred during the lawsuit. That’s significant chunk of change for a piece of legislation that didn’t actually fix a problem. According to the resolution’s author Rep. Rex Duncan, it was merely a “preemptive strike.” A solution to a nonexistent problem is the nature of this type of legislation, however.
Oklahoma’s amendment was based on “American Laws for American Courts, model legislation written by anti-Muslim lawyer and activist David Yerushalmi. Although the laws are intended to block state courts from recognizing foreign law like Shariah, it really serves to vilify America’s Muslim population. Yerushalmi said as much in a 2011 interview with the New York Times:
“If this thing passed in every state without any friction, it would have not served its purpose,” he stated. “The purpose was heuristic — to get people asking this question, ‘What is Shariah?’”
Now, Oklahoma taxpayers must pay for an overturned measure whose sole purpose was to discriminate against a group of people.
One might imagine what that money could have been spent on. For a frame of reference, here are some things $303,333 could have bought:
- One year ago, a deadly tornado sent many Oklahoma families in search of shelter. According to the American Red Cross, $150 can cover a day’s worth of supplies for a family of four living in disaster relief shelter. $303,333 could have covered that cost for 2,022 families.
- Annual Tuition at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, a public school in the state’s capital, is $9,635. $303,333 could have sent 31 students to school for a year.
- The Oklahoma City Thunder, the state’s NBA team, is still alive in the playoffs this year. Basketball fans could have purchased 6 terrace suite lounge seats to see them in action during the regular season for $84,258. $303,333 would’ve covered three seasons.
In short, $303,333 could have gone a long way. However, Oklahoma will now have to spend that amount on correcting the mistake of those willing to adopt the Yerushalmi doctrine that marginalizes people and makes a mockery of our legislative system.