Federal Court Considers Oklahoma Shariah Ban

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


On Monday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals began hearings on a constitutional challenge to Oklahoma’s ban on Shariah law.

The amendment to the state’s constitution was approved by popular vote—more than 70 percent of Oklahomans voted for it. But although singling out Muslims for official disapproval might have been a workable strategy for getting out the vote, it may doom the law in court. Reuters reports:

The panel gave no indication how it would rule, but at least one judge, Scott Matheson, asked why the measure was crafted to apply explicitly to just one religion.

“There’s no mention of any other specific law,” Matheson said in the hearing. “We just have Sharia law singled out.”

Oklahoma Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick replied, “The intent here was to exclude Sharia law and international law.”

Matheson asked, “Why is there any need to mention Sharia law,” to which Wyrick answered: “To avoid confusion.”

Often questions from judges during oral arguments are less about getting information than making a point, and in this case Obama-appointee Matheson (the older brother of Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat) seemed to be offering Wyrick a chance to explain the ban’s obvious problems. Instead, Wyrick just reiterated that the law was targeting a particular religion, lest anyone get confused. That’s unusual. Laws explicitly singling out certain religions are rare, precisely because the authors of those laws know that doing poses obvious constitutional problems that could lead to the measures being overturned. In previous cases like this, lawmakers have at least tried to pretend that there was a compelling public interest beyond simply curtailing the religious activities of one particular group. But thanks to the language of the amendment and the public statements of Oklahoma lawmakers, there’s little doubt who the amendment was targeting. 

Oklahoma’s Shariah law ban was called the “Save Our State Amendment,” but only in the most fevered imaginations is Tulsa in danger of being annexed by Islamic extremists. Instead, the ban will simply interfere with the ability of Muslim Oklahomans to execute wills and uphold business contracts drafted according to their religious beliefs. There is no danger of “Shariah” replacing American law. Where religious practices come into contact with civil law, the latter prevails.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate