(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/29/16) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on the South Carolina General Assembly to drop an unconstitutional, anti-Islam bill (H. 3521) currently moving through that body because it violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The bill's sponsors, and the text of the legislation, make clear it is designed to attack the religious principles of Islam, or â€œsharia.â€
The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Chip Limehouse, came one step closer to becoming law after it passed 68-42 in the South Carolina House of Representatives yesterday. H. 3521 seeks â€œto prevent a court or other enforcement authority from enforcing foreign law including, but not limited to, sharia law in this state from a forum outside of the United States or its territories under certain circumstances.â€
Even the billâ€™s sponsors admit that there are no known cases of attorneys in South Carolina attempting to use international law or sharia law in that stateâ€™s courts.
Text of H. 3521
H. 3521 is one of many so-called â€œforeign lawâ€ bills introduced in state legislatures nationwide in a coordinated campaign to demonize Islam and to marginalize American Muslims. In 2015, more than 30 pieces of such legislation were introduced in 17 states.
In a letter sent today to South Carolina Senate Majority Leader Harvey S. Peeler, Jr., Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Larry A. Martin and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, CAIR Senior Staff Attorney William Burgess wrote in part:
â€œI write to inform you that H. 3521, adopted yesterday by the South Carolina House of Representatives, and currently pending before the South Carolina Senate, would â€“ if passed – be in violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. . .
â€œThis legislation is very similar to the Oklahoma anti-Sharia constitutional amendment that wasÂ struck down as a violation of the Establishment Clause in a federal court challenge brought by CAIR.
Deciding in favor of CAIRâ€™s lawsuit challenging the amendment, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange ruled that â€˜the references to Sharia Law violated the Establishment Clause.â€™ Should this legislation become law, I expect that it would meet the same fate.Â
â€œAs with the Oklahoma amendment, H. 3521 would send the unconstitutional message that Islam is an officially disfavored religion in the State of South Carolina.Â This would be in clear violation of the First Amendmentâ€™s command that government remain neutral in matters of religion.â€Â
In 2011, the American Bar Association (ABA) passed a resolution opposing legislation like H. 3521, 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.”
CAIR noted that the billâ€™s sponsor has cited the Center for Security Policy (CSP) as a source of the legislation. In 2010, the FBI stated that CSP research is based on “outdated information” and “overstated” any threat Muslim observances pose to America.
CSPâ€™s founder and president, Frank Gaffney, was also referred to by Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball as “one of the country's leading anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists.” Gaffney's conspiracy theories regarding Muslim infiltration of all aspects of American life are so overblown that he was banned from attending the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011 after accusing its top leadership of being infiltrated by Islamists.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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