In the last week of February the House in Idaho voted 44-24 in favor of HB 419, Rep. Eric Redman’s anti-Sharia law bill, to forbid the recognition of any foreign law by Idaho courts.
Idaho is a northwestern state with a population of 1.7 million people. Muslims are less than one percent of the population with about 8 Islamic centers. The evangelical protestants, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the mainline protestants, unaffiliated and Catholics have double digit population while eastern orthodox, black protestants, Jehovah’s witness. Agnostic, Atheist, Jewish, Buddhists and Hindus are less than one percent. The natives, the original inhabitants of the land are about 2 percent.
Yet the Republican controlled house passed the bill that followed model legislation developed by the American Laws for American Courts, headed by Louisiana attorney Stephen Gele. In 2010 Oklahoma passed a similar amendment to its constitution forbidding a state court from considering Sharia in decisions. This was, however, overruled in a Federal Court in 2013.
The Idaho version does not specifically mention Sharia to avoid the constitutional problem but the supporters of the legislation use Sharia to explain their case. So far, no Idaho court has made a decision based on any foreign law since it became a state in 1839.
Explaining the reasons to enact the legislation Redman cited a New Jersey case in which a judge refused to grant an abused wife a protection order because, following testimony from the imam, the husband was merely acting according to his religious beliefs that he God has permitted him to have sex with his wife whenever he wanted to have it. The New Jersey Superior Court, however, declared that the judge was mistaken in deciding not to issue a restraining order.
So far, 13 states including Washington have adopted such laws since 2010.
The house ignored the public testimony given on February 15th, 2018, Steve Martin Pride Foundation Regional Philanthropy Officer in Idaho, gave testimony against this bill.
Following is the testimony in full.
Good morning. My name is Steve Martin. I am a longtime resident of Idaho, and also the regional officer in Idaho for Pride Foundation—a 30-plus-year-old Northwest-based organization that as a part of our mission helps advocate for equality for all through education, and the annual awarding of academic scholarships and community grants.
I am here in opposition to House Bill 419. My reasons start with the proposed bill being a solution in search of a problem since the First Amendment already prohibits U.S. courts from imposing religious law as civil law, meaning this measure is completely unfounded and not necessary.
But what I find most troubling about this bill is that, despite language that states its intent is to protect Idahoans from the application of “foreign laws,” I fear the true intent and consequence will be to target only one religious group—people of the Muslim faith. And that, quite frankly, is discrimination. It’s un-American—and it’s un-Idahoan.
This bill feeds on growing anti-Muslim sentiments and rhetoric in this country to single out our Muslim neighbors, who we should remember have the same rights as all of us. It fans the flames of the “Us Versus Them” mentality, creating unfounded fear and division. We should be better than that. Idaho IS better than that.
At Pride Foundation, one of our guiding values is inclusivity. We strive for participation at all levels, embrace our differences, and challenge ourselves to end prejudice and oppression—something I’d like to think all of you also share as our state leaders. We are also guided by hope, courage, and the belief that mutual respect is something ALL of us deserve.
It is my hope that you will have the courage to see House Bill 419 for what it is—one that promotes intolerance and prejudice, and that you will vote no on its passage. Thank you.
According to the Southern Poverrty Law Center, Anti-Muslim hate groups play an integral role in the introduction of anti-sharia bills in the US. The mastermind behind model languages in bills in many state is David Yerushalmi. Legal experts deem Anti-sharia legislation unnecessary and useless since the U.S. Constitution unequivocally denies authority to any foreign law. In fact, the real purpose of these bills is to vilify Muslims and Islam. Yerushalmi recognized this and told the New York Times in 2011.
If this thing passed in every state without any friction, it would have not served its purpose. The purpose was heuristic – to get people asking this question, ‘What is Shariah?’
Some of the anti-Muslim hate groups are the Center for Security Policy, Act for America and American Public Policy Alliance. It is revealed by Hatewatch that the Idaho house rep Redman was in touch with these groups for a period of 15 months from May 2016 to August 2017.
The following details come from Hatewatch.
Redman worked with and was in regular contact with these groups regarding anti-sharia legislation. One of the individuals the Idaho state lawmaker collaborated with was Chris Holton of the Center for Security Policy (CSP).
Holton, who is based in New Orleans, travels the country on behalf of CSP meeting with lawmakers and encouraging them to introduce anti-Muslim legislation such as anti-sharia bills.
The emails also reveal Redman worked closely with the local Treasure Valley chapter of ACT for America, the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the country. Additionally, he was in communication with Stephen Gele, an APPA board member.
The bill was first introduced on March 3, 2016, less than two months after CSP’s Holton, along with anti-Muslim speaker Shahram Hadian, held an event attended by 16 lawmakers in Idaho about the “threat of Jihad” that demonized refugees resettling in Idaho
The following is the voting record of the House members.