On Wednesday, members of the North Carolina House debated HB 640, a bill to ban the use of Islamic Shariah law in state courts. This is nothing new: Since the beginning of 2009, two dozen states have considered such proposals, stemming from concerns that unless serious action is taken, American citizens will be forced to adhere to a draconian interpretation of Shariah. That's the argument, at least, but through each of these bills, there's been one nagging flaw—no one can explain, when pressed, why such legislation is necessary.
At this point, the drill is getting kind of familiar. How familiar? Well, here's Laura Leslie, of Raleigh's WRAL:
Rep. Verla Insko asked [State Rep. George] Cleveland twice for an example of a case that would show a need for the bill. "I do not have any specific examples off the top of my head," Cleveland finally replied.
Hey, that sounds similar to the scene on Tuesday when the Missouri House voted on a bill to ban Islamic law from state courts:
When Will Steger was 15 years old, he and his brother piloted an old motorboat down the Mississippi River from Minnesota to New Orleans. At 17, he journeyed to the Arctic. At 41, he became the first man in history to travel unsupported to the North Pole and come back alive. He's traveled across Antarctica by sled (another first), hopped freights, and found his purpose at a mountain monastery.
But there's just one challenge the Arctic explorer couldn't complete: Keeping Tim Pawlenty honest on global warming.
After working closely with Steger for two years to combat climate change, the former Minnesota governor and current GOP presidential contender abruptly reversed himself on the issue in 2008, just as his name was being floated as a possible presidential running mate for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Steger and Pawlenty haven't spoken since. Today, the politician who once cut a radio ad with Janet Napolitano calling for a federal cap on greenhouse gas emissions calls his work on climate change "stupid" and says the science is uncertain at best.
"I'm baffled by that—did he actually say that?" says Steger, when asked about Pawlenty's recent statements. "I'm baffled by that. But I think he's getting information from the wrong source and it's really too bad for our children. It's reckless."
Remember that whole brouhaha last year about the folks who were suing to block the construction of an Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee? To refresh your memory: The plaintiffs argued, in part, that the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was not protected by the First Amendment, because Islam is a totalitarian ideology and not a religion (the Justice Department disagreed). The stakes were high. As the plaintiff's attorney Joe Brandon Jr. explained, construction of a new house of worship in central Tennessee was part of the Muslim Brotherhood's plan to, eventually, raise the "flag of Sharia" over the White House and subjugate the citizenry. A county judge found this argument unpersuasive, and ruled that construction could continue on the Islamic center.
Brandon, however, promised that very day that Murfreesboro had not seen the last of Joe Brandon Jr. And now, the mosque opponents are back in court, with a fresh set of complaints, 14 new plaintiffs, and a legal argument we'll diplomatically call "novel." Per the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal:
They contend that [plaintiff Kevin] Fisher has standing because he's an African American Christian who'd be discriminated against and subjugated as a second-class citizen under Shariah law and be denied his civil rights; [plaintiff Lisa] Moore has standing because she's a Jewish female who's targeted in a Muslim call to kill Jews in "jihad" in support of Palestine and as a woman whose rights would be subordinate to those of men in Shariah law; and [plaintiff Henry] Golczynski, who lost a son killed while serving in the U.S. Marines in a combat in Fallujah, Iraq, by insurgents pursuing jihad as dictated by Shariah law.
In other words, they're suing Muslims in central Tennessee for future crimes they might commit, because of past actions taken by Muslim insurgents in...Iraq. I see no way this can fail.
But wait, this story gets more interesting. The plaintiffs have also raised concerns about the presence of security cameras at the site of the Islamic center's construction site. Brandon alleged that the cameras violated his right to privacy, because they were able to film his car every time he drove by (one can only imagine the intrusion he endures every time he uses an ATM). The cameras were placed there by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which launched a hate-crime investigation last summer into a case of suspected arson at the mosque site.
About a month ago, we told you about a bill before Missouri's legislature to ban Islamic Shariah law from being enforced in state courts. The proposal, introduced by Republican state Rep. Paul Curtman, drew its language from the sample legislation drafted by David Yerushalmi, an Arizona-based attorney who has previously called for Muslims to be deported. Since the beginning of 2009, two dozen states have considered proposals to ban Shariah, many of which have borrowed Yerushalmi's language.
Yesterday, the Missouri bill passed out of committee in the House, after a heated debate. Per KMOX:
"This bill will go to court and you are wasting your ink on this paper. Because this will not be upheld in court," [Democratic Rep. Jamilah] Nasheed said Tuesday. "You're wasting your time gentleman. You're wasting your time in this body."
Nasheed called on Curtman to provide a list of cases in which international law had been used in American courts but Curtman was unable to provide an example of such a case.
Why should that sound familiar? Because this exact same scenario unfolded in March, when Curtman held a press conference unveil the bill. Here was his response then when a reporter asked for examples:
"I don't have the specifics with me right now but if you go to—the web address kind of escapes my mind right now. Any Google search on international law used in the state courts in the U.S. is going to turn up some cases for you."
When it comes to pot, we've come a long way from the days of "I did not inhale." Fifteen states (plus the District of Columbia) currently permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and according to a recent Pew survey, 45-percent of Americans say they'd support legalizing marijuana outright—a 29-point increase from just two decades ago. Cannabis is fast losing its political stigma, too: The GOP might march in lockstep on abortion and tax cuts, but when it comes to pot, things get a bit hazier. Some of the party's presidential candidates have never touched the stuff; more than a few of them inhaled; one of them even got nabbed in a drug bust. In honor of 4/20, here's a quick guide to where the GOP's 2012 contenders stand on pot:
Mitch Daniels: As a student in Princeton, the Indiana governor was arrested in a police sting that netted two size-12 shoeboxes worth of marijuana, along with LSD and drug paraphernalia. Daniels was cited for pot possession but got off with a $350 fine for "maintaining a common nuisance." He told the Daily Princetonian in 1988 that because of the arrest "any goal I might have had for competing for public office were shot,"and later called the incident an "unfortunate confluence of my wild oats period and America's libertine apogee" (far out!). As governor, Daniels has endorsed alternative sentencing for non-violent offenses like pot possession as a way to reduce prison overcrowding.
Jon Huntsman: In 1978, the US ambassador to China dropped out of high school to play in a prog rock band called "Wizard." As Politico noted, two of his bandmates were "very active in drugs," but Huntsman, who is Mormon, never joined in, and a friend says he "never saw him inhale." Medical marijuana is not legal in Utah, where Huntsman was governor for four years.
Mike Huckabee: He opposes marijuana legalization in any form, but did invite Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong fame) on his TV show to discuss pot policy, for a segment called "Is Pot Ruining Our Kids?" Chong ended the segment by calling Huckabee a "mushroom farmer," because "you keep 'em in the dark and throw [expletive] at them":