You're doin' fine Oklahoma!
A line from Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical,
Now that the election is over it's time to look at one state that was able to take a very important step, a step for which is has received precious little publicity notwithstanding the step's importance. It is the state of Oklahoma. With a 70.8% approval, the good citizens of that state have passed what is known as Oklahoma State Question 755 with the catchy name of "Save Our State."
Upon seeing that title one's first assumption is that the question is whether or not the two U.S. Senators from Oklahoma, Senators James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, should be recalled. The state would certainly be better off without either of them as would the rest of the country. That was not the question before the voters, however, and upon learning the nature of the question one learns that State Question 755 was a question with national significance.
Those who regularly appear in court in Oklahoma and in other state courts around the country are all too familiar with the first question that the judge usually asks when the proceedings begin. The question the judge asks the participants in the litigation is whether they want Sharia law or state and federal law to apply to the particular dispute they are having. There is no default rule so if the parties are unable to agree on what law to apply there is no set method in most states for resolving the dispute. It is entirely possible that the decision is left to the judge.
Rex Duncan, a member of the Oklahoma State Legislature who elected to leave the legislature in order to run (successfully) for District Attorney in Osage and Pawnee Counties in Oklahoma, came up with a creative solution to this problem that, like the anti-immigration statute enacted in Arizona, is almost certain to be copied in forward looking states around the country. In the spring of 2010, Representative Duncan persuaded his colleagues in the state legislature to adopt House Joint Resolution 1056 that placed before voters the question of whether they should amend the state Constitution to require the courts to "uphold and adhere to the law" as provided in the Oklahoma and United States Constitutions as well as the U.S. Code and federal regulations and Oklahoma statutes and rules." It forbids courts from considering or using international law or Sharia law.
Before the legislature voted, Representative Duncan, who chaired the House Judiciary Committee, favored his colleagues with a brief history lesson. He said that "The whole point of the Revolutionary War was so Americans would not be under the thumb of foreign rulers. . . . My legislation would allow the voters to prevent judges in Oklahoma from undermining our democracy and legal system in the future." He said his proposal constituted a preemptive strike against Sharia law coming to Oklahoma and "While Oklahoma is still able to defend itself against this sort of hideous invasion, we should do so." Representative Lewis Moor, a co-author of the bill said: "I don't think we should accept or encourage Sharia law in any way, shape or form." Another sponsor of the Resolution, Senator Anthony Sykes said: "Sharia law coming to the U.S. is a scary concept. Hopefully the passage of this constitutional amendment will prevent it in Oklahoma."
Supporters of the law took no chances that State Question 755 would not pass handsomely. Brigitte Gabriel, an international terrorism analyst and president of ACT! For America.org explained in a press release for the benefit of those who didn't know, the genesis of Sharia and how it specifically impacts women. She did not address the question of how frequently Sharia law is being applied in the United States since that was adequately addressed by the sponsors and authors of the legislation. She did say that her group wants "to make sure that the people in Oklahoma are educated about what Sharia law is all about and its ramifications. We are not taking any chances with this initiative passing marginally. We hope it passes with great victory." John Swails, director of the Center of Israel and Middle East Studies at Oral Roberts University, came out in support of the measure. In explaining his support he cited a little known fact (by perhaps anyone but him) that supporters of Sharia are beginning a campaign to have the U.S. embrace Sharia.
The Oklahoma newspaper, the Enid News and Eagle, unaware of the problems Mr. Duncan and friends see, said, "There is no need for this law because judges exclusively use state and federal law to guide their decisions." The paper said it was nothing more than a "feel-good measure." The measure passed overwhelmingly and the state of Oklahoma was, as the measure's title promised, saved. The title of the measure notwithstanding, a non-Oklahoman would be hard pressed to understand why that would make anyone feel good.
Christopher Brauchli can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. For political commentary see his web page.