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Tenth Circuit: Anti-Sharia Law Doesn't Survive Larson Test

By Robyn Hagan Cain on January 13, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that a district court did not err in enjoining an anti-Sharia state constitutional amendment that prevents Oklahoma state courts from considering or using Sharia law in decisions.

Not only did the appellate court find the measure discriminatory, and unlikely to survive a constitutional challenge under the Larson test, it also noted that there is no evidence that U.S. courts are influenced by Muslim legal precepts in the Sharia, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

Oklahoma voters approved a “Save our State” constitutional amendment in November 2010. The law was written to prohibit judges from using international laws as a basis for decisions, and specifically banned the use of Sharia law.

Muneer Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma, sued to block the anti-Sharia amendment, claiming that his First Amendment constitutional rights were being violated through the condemnation of his faith.

Awad and the American Civil Liberties Union claim that the Save our State amendment, by singling out the Sharia, expresses a government preference for one religion over another in violation of the Constitution.

While the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has not ruled on Awad's underlying claim yet, it seems unlikely that the Save our State amendment would survive.

To begin with, the Tenth Circuit noted that the state did not "identify any actual problem the challenged amendment seeks to solve. Indeed, they admitted at the preliminary injunction hearing that they did not know of even a single instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law or used the legal precepts of other nations or cultures, let alone that such applications or uses had resulted in concrete problems in Oklahoma."

Furthermore, the court ruled that, applying the Larson test to the law, Awad would likely prevail because Oklahoma could not demonstrate a compelling interest in enforcing the law.

The case has been remanded to the district court, where Awad will pursue a permanent injunction against the amendment. Do you think Oklahoma will appeal, or will it accept the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals' determination that the anti-Sharia law would probably be found unconstitutional?

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