Karen Lugo
Recommend this article

Muneer Awad, who filed the lawsuit against Oklahoma’s attempted ban on sharia law, says that he thinks judges can and should follow directives like those in his will - to “look to Islamic precepts in situations where Awad’s wishes aren’t clear.”

Awad believes initiatives like the one passed by more than 70 percent of Oklahomans -- but denied effect by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals -- to prohibit judges from citing sharia, or foreign, law as authoritative would bar judges from discerning Islamic religiously-inspired contract and estate instructions. Awad is wrong. He is incorrect in thinking that judges can currently determine a person's last will and "wishes" by referring to religious precepts.

Judges are already prohibited from deciphering religious issues by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The often misunderstood “wall” that is thought to separate church and state really does block judges from entering the religious realm. Judges may not interpret matters of religious practice and must only apply “neutral principles of law.” The Supreme Court has consistently reinforced its hands-off approach to doctrinal matters believing that courts are ill-equipped to deal with such decisions. Awad, if you leave gaps in your will for a judge to fill according to Islamic tenets, you will be sadly disappointed. Accordingly, so would a Jew or Christian be denied judicial opinion on matters of religious practice.

All of this illustrates the exact problem with sharia and why it is offensive to American traditions. Sharia adherents observe no barricade between mosque and state. Doctrinally dictated sharia rules govern every aspect of a pious Muslim’s life from personal, familial, financial, marital, to civic affairs. Thus, it is not surprising that a sharia-adherent Muslim would expect a legal tribunal to complete gaps in a marital agreement, a contract, or a will. Americans are certainly free to conduct their affairs according to religious motivations but they know not to ask the courts to supply missing articles of faith.

As Americans have consented to be governed according to the rule of citizen-inspired and legislatively-adopted law, it is not surprising that there is a clash with those that would impose dogmatic law dictated by clerics. Oklahomans were correct in their concern; they just turned to the wrong branch of government to protect the culture.

Recommend this article

Karen Lugo

Karen Lugo is the Founder of the Libertas-West Project and a co-director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence.