(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/25/19) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today called on state leaders, members of the Delaware General Assembly and the Delaware Republican Party to rebuke anti-Islam comments made earlier this month by Delaware Republican State Senator David G. Lawson (District 15).
On June 12, the Delaware Senate Judicial Committee held a hearing to consider an Islamophobic anti-foreign law bill proposed by Lawson, which declares it the public policy of Delaware to protect citizens from the application of “foreign law.” While it does not explicitly mention Sharia (Islamic principles), the bill is directly modeled after legislation which explicitly targets Sharia and was drafted by notorious Islamophobe David Yerushalmi.
During the hearing, Senator Lawson implicitly questioned the American Muslim community’s support for the constitution. He stated:
“I know there are some outcry against the bill, in fact there’s a letter in our packet which is kind of surprising, that says it’s an affront to Islam. It’s not mentioned in the bill anywhere, it specifically doesn’t outline any one or any religion or anything else, it simply says that this bill from public policy protects the rights of our citizens to be heard when the cases are heard in court that what they do must be constitutional. It is that simple.
“There is a lot of outcry out there that seems to be, well it gives me pause when there is only one segment of the community that’s railing against this bill. Are they the ones who want to subvert our constitution? I don’t know. But that’s my concern. This is a simple bill, it is not aimed at any religion, it is not aimed at anyone. It could be Amish Law, a great community of Amish folks in the 15th Senatorial District, that can’t be heard. Catholic Canons can’t be heard, only constitutional law. I would request that it be released from committee.”
CAIR received a copy of the hearing transcript after submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Delaware Senate.
“Delaware State leaders must immediately rebuke Senator Lawson’s Islamophobic comments and reaffirm the state’s support for the Delaware Muslim community,” said CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw, who testified against the bill. “This type of bigoted attack, challenging a group of Americans’ allegiance to this country, has been used to target every religious minority in our nation’s history. It is disappointing that in the 21st century we must remind Senator Lawson and those who share his beliefs that American Muslims are our nation’s doctors, lawyers, soldiers, scientists, and first responders, and that Muslims have contributed immensely to the development of the United States.”
SEE: CAIR Testifies Against Proposed Anti-Islam Legislation in Delaware
McCaw also thanked Democratic Delaware State Senator Bryan Townsend (District 11) who immediately denounced Senator Lawson’s remarks, stating:
“I’ll just note the dramatic disagreement I have not only with the content of the legislation but the idea that the fact that a religious group opposes something must be evidence of the fact that they have nefarious intentions. And on behalf of people who would find that offensive, which is most people I think, I certainly do.”
McCaw added that community members are encouraged to participate in CAIR’s click and send action alert urging members of the Delaware Senate to oppose this bill.
Delaware Residents Take Action: Urge Your Lawmakers to Oppose Anti-Muslim Sb 99
In 2017, Lawson made Islamophobic comments on the floor of the Senate that drew statewide rebuke from a coalition of interfaith and lay leaders, including Governor John Carney, and hundreds of Delawareans.
After two Muslims gave the Senate invocation, Senator Lawson stated: “We just heard from the Quran, which calls for our very demise. I fought for this country, not to be damned by someone that comes in here and prays to their God for our demise. I think that's despicable."
Background on Anti-Foreign Law Bills:
Attempts to outlaw the application of Sharia or other bodies of law in judicial proceedings grew out of a concerted push by known Islamophobe David Yerushalmi. Anti-foreign law bills did not exist prior to Yerushalmi’s efforts to raise alarm bells about Sharia and draw their language, often verbatim, from a piece of model legislation authored by Yerushalmi in 2010.
The language these bills use is often purposefully broad to block legal challenges to their discriminatory natures. In 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld a lower court's decision to block implementation of an Oklahoma state constitutional amendment that would have prohibited courts from applying or considering "Sharia law" in a federal court challenge brought by CAIR. The following year, Oklahoma legislators circumvented constitutionality concerns by hiding the anti-Sharia bill’s bias behind a broader, facially neutral “foreign law” ban and passed anti-Muslim law HB 1060.
In 2011, the American Bar Association (ABA) passed a resolution opposing legislation like Senate Bill 29, noting that it is "duplicative of safeguards that are already enshrined in federal and state law," saying, "Initiatives that target an entire religion or stigmatize an entire religious community, such as those explicitly aimed at 'Sharia law,' are inconsistent with some of the core principles and ideals of American jurisprudence."
Since 2010, elected state representatives have introduced at least 221 anti-Muslim “foreign law” bills in 44 state legislatures. As of 2018, 15 of these bills are law in 13 states, covering nearly a quarter of the nation.
The Washington-based civil rights group has challenged similar unconstitutional and discriminatory “anti-Sharia,” “anti-foreign law” and “anti-Islamic Indoctrination” bills that have been introduced in state legislatures nationwide.
- CAIR Urges South Carolina Lawmakers to Reject Anti-Islam Bill
- CAIR Urges Idaho Lawmakers to Drop Anti-Islam Bill
- CAIR Calls on Wisconsin State Assembly to Drop ‘Unconstitutional and Un-American’ Anti-Islam Bill
- CAIR-Texas to Offer Testimony on Anti-Islam Bill, Urges Community to Contact Lawmakers
- CAIR Challenges Unconstitutional Anti-Islam Bills in Arkansas, Montana, Idaho, Oregon
To counter this coordinated anti-Islam campaign, CAIR published a toolkit offering a pair of anti-Islamophobia resolutions that recognize the contributions of American Muslims and reaffirm the right of citizens to practice their faith within the law and free of government interference.
CAIR’s toolkit has sections such as “Understanding the Legislative Process,” “Legislative Advocacy: Limits for Non-Profit Organizations,” “Checklist: Meeting with an Elected Official,” and “Ensuring an Effective Meeting with an Elected Official," as well as fact sheets that may be given to lawmakers and their staff in support of the two resolutions.
CAIR’s Toolkit: Recognizing American Muslim Contributions in Our States
CAIR is urging Islamic communities nationwide to ask state lawmakers to stand with their Muslim constituents in countering the injustice of growing Islamophobia nationwide that is being spread by anti-Muslim activists and hate groups.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.