OK Election Board Seeks to Appeal Shariah Law Ruling

The Oklahoma State Election Board voted Tuesday to appeal a federal judge's decision to block a state ban on Islamic religious law.

On Nov. 2, 70 percent of Oklahoma voters approved "State Question 755," a constitutional amendment prohibiting state courts from "considering or using international law," specifically Shariah law.

Announcing their plan to appeal, the election board said in a statement, "We believe the state has an obligation to put forth the best defense possible of a lawful election by the people."

Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of Federal District Court in Oklahoma City issued a preliminary injunction on Monday, preventing the election board from certifying the results.

Muneer Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, filed the lawsuit, arguing that the measure violated his First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

Although no state court is known to have considered Shariah law in Oklahoma, which is home to approximately 15 thousand Muslims, former State Rep. Rex Duncan, the principle author of the measure, has called it a "preemptive strike" against activist judges who might impose it.

In her ruling Monday, Judge Miles-LaGrange agreed with Awad's contention that the Oklahoma measure unfairly "conveys an official government message of disapproval and hostility toward his religious beliefs, that sends a clear message he is an outsider, not a full member of the political community, thereby chilling his access to the government and forcing him to curtail his political and religious activities."

Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Scott Boughton argued on behalf of the state that the amendment does not target the Muslim faith and is instead a broad ban on using international law in state courts.

Disagreeing, the judge wrote, "While defendants contend that the amendment is merely a choice-of-law provision that bans state courts from applying the law of other nations or 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 Shariah law, conveying a message of disapproval of plaintiff's faith."