Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Federal Court Issues Preliminary Injunction Against Oklahoma Anti-Shariah Amendments

Yesterday an Oklahoma federal district court issued a preliminary injunction barring the Oklahoma State Board of Elections from certifying the election results for State Question 755-- the state constitutional amendment that would prevent Oklahoma courts from considering international law or Shariah law. (See prior posting.)  In Awad v. Ziriax, (WD OK, Nov. 29, 2010), the court found that plaintiff, a Muslim, has standing to challenge the amendment because he has suffered injury in fact:
Plaintiff has sufficiently set forth a personal stake in this action by alleging that he lives in Oklahoma, is a Muslim, that the amendment conveys an official government message of disapproval and hostility toward his religious beliefs.... [I]t would be incomprehensible if, as plaintiff alleges, Oklahoma could condemn the religion of its Muslim citizens, yet one of those citizens could not defend himself in court against his government’s preferment of other religious views.
Second, plaintiff claims that his First Amendment rights will be violated by the invalidation of his last will and testament which incorporates various teachings of Mohammed. 
The court went on to find that plaintiff's facial challenge to the amendment is ripe for review.  Finally the court concluded that plaintiff had made a strong showing of the likelihood of success on his Establishment Clause claim:
While defendants contend that the amendment is merely a choice of law provision that bans state courts from applying the law of other nations and cultures, regardless of what faith they may be based on, if any, the actual language of the amendment reasonably, and perhaps more reasonably, may be viewed as specifically singling out Sharia Law, conveying a message of disapproval of plaintiff’s faith....
Additionally, the Court finds that plaintiff has made a strong showing that the amendment will foster an excessive government entanglement with religion. Because, as set forth above, Sharia Law is not “law” but is religious traditions that differ among Muslims, the Court finds that plaintiff has shown that to comply with the amendment, Oklahoma courts will be faced with determining the content of Sharia Law, and, thus, the content of plaintiff’s religious doctrines.
The Oklahoman reports on the decision.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, the Oklahoma State Election Board voted to appeal the district court's ruling. (Fox News 11/30).