Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Anti-Sharia Activists Raise Alarm Over...Contract Law?

| Wed Mar. 23, 2011 10:33 AM EDT

Yesterday, the St. Petersburg Times reported on a new civil case in Tampa, Florida that's become a cause célèbre on the right:

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Richard Nielsen is being attacked by conservative bloggers after he ruled in a lawsuit March 3 that, to resolve one crucial issue in the case, he will consult a different source.

"This case," the judge wrote, "will proceed under Ecclesiastical Islamic Law."

According to some conservatives, this is a troubling sign that the American legal system is under attack from Sharia law (one activist called it a sign of a new "Islamic Tsunami"). Adam Serwer examines the evidence and says that, actually, this is really, really normal:

The judge however, isn't invoking Islamic law because he simply felt like it, he's doing so because this is essentially a contract dispute in which the agreement was drawn up according to sharia...

Where there's a conflict between civil law and the terms of a contract, civil law holds sway. You could not, for example, sell yourself into slavery or force your spouse to sign a contract where they would be subject to abuse. So the notion that the presence of Islamic law in civil arbitration will inevitably lead to sharia replacing the Constitution is nonsense. This kind of case is a sign of America's growing Muslim population, which for many of those complaining is probably the real source of worry.

Right. The argument you tend to hear from conservatives concerns impending implementation of radical forms of Sharia. That is, if we don't act now, at some indeterminate point in the future the bad kind of Sharia—stoning, for instance—will take hold in the United States and we'll be powerless to stop it. Sounds scary. But stories like this one out of Florida, and the ensuing freakout, reveal that to be somewhat disingenuous. Anti-sharia activists think that any sort of Islamic law is a threat to be taken seriously, even if it's something so mundane as a contract dispute between the Islamic Education Center of Tampa and two aggrieved former trustees—and even if it's not much different from Jewish or Christian codes.

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Pawlenty's Pastor: An Evangelical Powerbroker

| Tue Mar. 22, 2011 12:59 PM EDT

As you've probably heard, former GOP Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty launched his presidential exploratory committee yesterday, with a characteristically flashy announcement video. To date, much of his national political exposure has focused more on his regular-guy credentials—he likes to fish and play hockey, and fancies himself as a "Sam's Club Republican" (as opposed to the country club sort). What tends to get overlooked, but probably shouldn't, is his faith. Here's Rose French:

"Pawlenty appeals to a younger evangelical, one who cares about issues beyond abortion and same-sex marriage like...the environment,'' Lindsey said. "He's seen as a fresher face. He's not a brash or harsh evangelical. He seems to embody this...authentic Christian faith. Evangelicals, if anything, have become well-trained on picking up on religious phonies."

To wit: Pawlenty's pastor at Minnesota's Wooddale Church is Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and a member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Anderson's no lefty—he's an author of the Manhattan Declaration, which called on Christian pastors to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage—but he's also pushed for amnesty for undocumented residents and supported greenhouse gas restrictions.

Going forward, this could be an asset for Pawlenty—the ability to speak sincerely to the party's conservative Christian base, without compromising his ordinary-guy image by coming off as a culture warrior. Leave that to Rick Santorum.

Ron Paul Coin Minter, Pot Priest, Faces 15 Years in Prison

| Mon Mar. 21, 2011 9:52 AM EDT

At least the Ron Paul chocolates are still legal. Bernard Von NotHaus, the "monetary architect" behind the world's only currency emblazoned with Ron Paul's face, has been convicted in federal court for producing counterfeit currency and engaging in "conspiracy" against the United States. From our friends at Indiana's Evansville Courier & Press:

Von NotHaus developed the liberty dollar in 1998 as an "inflation-proof" alternative currency to the U.S. dollar, which he claimed has devalued since the Federal Reserve was established in 1913.

The silver medallions were produced by a private mint in Idaho on behalf of Evansville-based Liberty Services, which also issued paper notes the group said were backed by silver reserves...

According to federal prosecutors, Liberty coins were marked with the dollar sign; the words "dollar," "USA," "Liberty," "Trust in God" (instead of "In God We Trust"); and other features associated with legitimate U.S. coins.

In 2007, federal authorities raided Von NotHaus' Liberty Dollars headquarters in Evansville, and confiscated more than 2 tons of copper, silver, and gold coins. Von NotHaus had made no secret of his ambition, telling a Spokane newspaper, "we're going to be to the Federal Reserve System what Federal Express was to the Postal Service." Since 2009, lawmakers in at least 14 states have introduced legislation to require or encourage state governments to accept payment in gold or silver. In Utah, for instance, a proposed bill would permit citizens to operate their own private mints.

Since the raid, as the Southern Poverty Law Center notes, Von NotHaus has retired from the currency business to found the Free Marijuana Church of Honolulu, where he's a "high priest." He's currently working on a book, tentatively titled, One Toke to God—Two Tokes to Party. Von NotHaus faces up to 15 years in prison.

The Week in Sharia: And They Will Call it "Al-Aska"

| Sun Mar. 20, 2011 1:35 PM EDT

Choose your analogies carefully:

  • Terror babies are back! Because a jihadist is never so dangerous as when he's teething, the Center for Immigration Studies, a far-right anti-immigrant group, is out with a new report alleging that terrorists are coming to the United States to have babies, which would, some 21 years down the line, make use of their American passports to wage stealth jihad. There are obviously no flaws with that plan.
  • Rick Santorum is back, too, and he's in mid-season form. At an event in Durham, New Hampshire the former Pennsylvania Senator made clear he intends to make the threat of Islamic law a central part of his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. Per Politico: "We need to define it and say what it is. And it is evil. Sharia law is incompatible with American jurisprudence and our Constitution."
  • I'd always assumed that, when the global caliphate comes to North America, we'd all be forced to move to Alaska to live out our pathetic existence in relative peace, in some sort of fusion of Coming Into the Country and Solzhenitsyn. But apparently it's the Last Frontier for Sharia, too. On Thursday, Alaska held hearings on a proposal to ban Islamic law from being enforced in state courts. You'll never probably guess who was invited to testify.
  • At hearings this week in Jefferson City, Missouri State Rep. Don Wells, sponsor of (one of) his state's proposed Sharia-bans, wanted the perfect analogy for what Sharia was capable of doing to his state. Instead, he compared compared it to Polio. Polio? Really?
  • And in Tennessee, the sponsor of a controversial bill that would classify Sharia as prima facie counter to American principles appears to have backtracked—at least somewhat.
  • Sharia giveth and it taketh away. On Tuesday, Pakistani authorities acquitted American contractor Ray Davis, who had been charged with murdering two men in Lahore. Why would they do that? TPM explains: "[T]he resolution came only after a deal was reached to pay the victims' families what the Punjab Law Minister called 'blood money'—in accordance with Islamic law." It's still unclear who actually paid for Davis' release.
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