Civil Rights Groups Protest Passage of “Foreign Law” Bill by Idaho Legislature

by Vins

In February, 2018 Al Jazeera reported on the passage of HB 419 by the Idaho state House of Representatives, and opposition to the bill by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other civil rights groups, on the grounds that the bill is unconstitutional and Islamophobic. As Al Jazeera reported, the Idaho bill, which seeks to ban the implementation of “foreign law” in the state, ins one of several under consideration across the US, including Montana, Oregon and Wisconsin.

The bill describes HB 419’s legislative intent as follows: “It shall be the public policy of this state to protect its citizens from the application of foreign laws when the application of foreign law will result in the violation of a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution of the United States or the constitution of the state of Idaho including, but not limited to, due process, freedom of religion, speech or the press, and any right of privacy or marriage embodied in the constitution of the state of Idaho.”

The latest version of the bill—which passed by a vote of 44-24 with one representative reported as absent—did not specifically reference Islamic law. However, Al Jazeera reported, the first version, introduced in 2016, “included pictures of a severed hand and a man about to be decapitated.” According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the bill targets Muslims and fits into a long pattern of “unconstitutional” bills that demonize Muslims by barring Sharia, or Islamic law.

A February 2018 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) critiqued the bill, noting that, “Anti-sharia legislation is unnecessary and useless since the U.S. Constitution unequivocally denies authority to any foreign law. The true purpose of these bills is to vilify Muslims by aiding in the increase of anti-Muslim rhetoric.”

Al Jazeera reported that, according to the SPLC, since 2010, 43 states have passed more than 200 “anti-Sharia” bills.

Source: Al Jazeera, “US Civil Rights Groups Decry ‘Anti-Muslim’ Bill in Idaho,” Al Jazeera, February 28, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/02/civil-rights-groups-decry-anti-muslim-bill-idaho-180228132324284.html.

Student Researcher: Cody Wiggins (College of Western Idaho)

Faculty Evaluator: Michelle Mahoney (College of Western Idaho)