COLUMBIA – South Carolina lawmakers are worried Islamic law could creep into the state’s courtrooms.
It’s not clear whether the Sharia Law ever affected Muslim girls in South Carolina, but a bill moving through the Legislaturecould send a statement to the court system and potentially the U.S. Congress, according to the sponsor of bill aimed at making sure foreign law doesn’t enter the American justice system.
Charleston Republican Rep. Chip Limehouse has introduced H. 3521, which says a court can’t use Sharia Law or any other foreign law to violate someone’s constitutional rights – whether the United States Constitution or the South Carolina Constitution.
Limehouse cited figures from the Washington-based Center for Security Policy that counted 146 cases from 32 states in whichShari’a Law was brought up in proceedings. In an interview Monday, he was uncertain as to whether South Carolina was amongthem or whether Sharia Law was applied in a way that weakened the sentence of an offender in an “honor-killing” by a familymember.
“I think more than likely the lawyer said, ‘your honor, my client comes from fill-in-the-blank, Iran, or whatever, and by the law of his land, what he did to his daughter is an accepted practice, therefore we’re asking for leniency from the court,'”offered Limehouse.
He said Congress should be taking up such measures, but in the meantime: “It should be done as a federal law. But hopefully South Carolina will send a message.”
Critics of the movement to ban Sharia Law in American courtrooms, a trend that has gathered in recent years, argue that itstokes fear of Muslim culture and props up a non-existent domestic menace.
Nevertheless, last week an S.C. House subcommittee gave Limehouse’s bill its approval, sending it to the full committee. Althoughsome members questioned whether the proposal was necessary.
“Isn’t it already illegal to violate somebody’s constitutional rights?” wondered Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Columbia.
“We are doing nothing more than reaffirming what’s already on the books,” said Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, the subcommittee chairman.
“This adds the belt and the suspenders.”
The U.S. Department of State says it has received many inquiries from American citizens hoping to adopt orphans from countrieswith Shari’a Law. The agency’s website notes that, “There is a vast variance in the implications and observance of Shari’a law from country to country.
From 2010 to 2012, lawmakers in at nearly three-dozen states introduced bills to keep courts from incorporating foreign laws,according to Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life.
Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee passed laws to do so, the organization found.
During that time South Carolina lawmakers introduced at least three pieces of legislation aimed at foreign law, while Georgia proposed at least four such bills.