By Andrew L. Seidel
FFRF Staff Attorney
What if a state supreme court judge said that his interpretation of Sharia trumps the U.S. Constitution? The judge says that he will “not be bound” by anything—federal law, the U.S. Constitution, or even a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court—that violates Allah’s natural law. What would happen?
That depends on where you are. Several states have passed anti-Sharia laws. Most recently, last November, Alabamans amended their state constitution to prohibit courts from using Sharia. Actually, the prohibition had to be camouflaged, so the 884th amendment to that state’s constitution says that courts, arbitrators, administrative agencies, etc., “shall not apply or enforce a foreign law.”
Foreign law is broadly defined, but clearly includes religious law (as you would expect from legislation directed at Sharia): “any law, rule, or legal code, or system established, used, or applied in a jurisdiction outside of the states or territories of the United States, or which exist as a separate body of law, legal code, or system adopted or used anywhere by any people, group, or culture different from the Constitution and laws of the United States or the State.”
University of Alabama School of Law Professor Paul Horowitz did a nice write-up of the law’s pointlessness and the authors’ motivation. He observes that the purpose behind the law “is outright hostility to Muslims . . . . The law, in its past and present versions, is driven by religious hostility.” This echoes the Brennan Center for Justice report calling anti-Sharia laws “thinly concealed attempts to inflame anti-Muslim attitudes.” Most important, these laws are pointless: The wall of separation between state and church—the wall FFRF defends—prohibits judges from imposing their religion on citizens.
Since the Alabama Constitution now ostensibly prohibits judges from using any religious law “different from the Constitution,” Sharia is out. But so is Christianity. It’s a separate body of law, contained in its own book, and adopted and used by people elsewhere. Christianity was born in the Middle East. It’s foreign law. Not only is it “different from the Constitution,” it doesn’t appear anywhere in our godless Constitution. So the Ten Commandments are out. And so is “God’s Organic Law.”
Which brings us back to that not-so-imaginary Alabama judge. Of course no Alabama judge is going to apply Sharia—it’s Alabama. But there is at least one Alabama judge who is bent on imposing the laws of his particular religion to override the Constitution: Roy Moore. (I know, I know. Many of you guessed that already.)
This is not a stretch. Moore’s nonprofit, a puny outfit that does little more than submit the occasional amicus brief, is called the Foundation for Moral Law. Not Alabama law, not constitutional law, but moral law. (Let’s ignore for a moment that his idea of morality has not evolved in thousands of years and includes discrimination). His idea of moral law derives from the bible. He’s out and proud about his love affair with his imaginary friend, god/Jesus (who, it must be noted, is consistently and irrevocably male in the bible that Moore thumps), and that friend’s interpretation of law. That is a body of law, foreign to the Constitution, that Moore is using to make judicial decisions. Moore is not defending the Alabama Constitution, he’s violating it.
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Conservative Christians like Moore, who oppose Sharia, but are more than happy to impose their personal religion on all citizens are hypocrites. But what else can we expect from the man who said that the First Amendment applies to Christians alone, because “Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures”?
I wonder if Attorney General Luther Strange, who defended Alabama’s gay marriage ban up to the U.S. Supreme Court, will investigate Moore for applying foreign law using his state office? After all, this is now an egregious breach of the Alabama Constitution.
Say it with me, Alabama: “No Moore!”