WASHINGTON -- A proposed amendment to Oklahoma's state constitution that would have prevented state courts from considering Sharia and international law was struck down by a federal judge on Thursday.
Chief District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of the Western District of Oklahoma, who issued a temporary restraining order preventing the law from taking effect after it passed in 2010, ruled Thursday that the amendment’s references to Sharia, or Islamic law, violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. While Oklahoma officials argued the amendment could be enacted if the reference to Sharia was removed, Miles-LaGrange ruled that wasn't possible.
"Having reviewed the numerous statements by the legislators who authored the amendment, it is abundantly clear that the primary purpose of the amendment was to specifically target and outlaw Sharia law and to act as a preemptive strike against Sharia law to protect Oklahoma from a perceived 'threat' of Sharia law being utilized in Oklahoma courts," she ruled.
Miles-LaGrange also found that Oklahoma voters wouldn't have passed the constitutional amendment without the Sharia language, ruling that the "public debate, public discussions, articles, radio ads and robocalls regarding SQ 755 all primarily, and overwhelmingly, focused on the Sharia law provisions of the amendment" and that given that context, any reasonable voter would have thought the amendment was a referendum on Sharia.
It was an "undisputed fact" that "the concern that it seeks to address has yet to occur," said Miles-LaGrange.
"While the public has an interest in the will of the voters being carried out, the Court finds that the public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual’s constitutional rights," she ruled.
The lawsuit against the constitutional amendment was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on behalf of the executive director of CAIR's Oklahoma chapter, Muneer Awad.
"Throughout the case, the state couldn't present even a shred of evidence to justify this discriminatory, unnecessary measure," Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, said in a statement.
"This law unfairly singled out one faith and one faith only," said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. "This amendment was nothing more than a solution in search of a problem. We're thrilled that it has been struck down."