Topeka: Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed a law aimed at keeping the state`s courts or government agencies from basing decisions on Islamic or other foreign legal codes, and a national Muslim group`s spokesman said that a court challenge is likely.
The new law, taking effect July 01, doesn`t specifically mention Shariah law, which broadly refers to codes within the Islamic legal system. Instead, it says courts, administrative agencies or state tribunals can`t base rulings on any foreign law or legal system that would not grant the parties the same rights guaranteed by state and US Constitutions.
Supporters have worried specifically about Shariah law being applied in Kansas court cases.
The American Public Policy Alliance, a Michigan group promoting model legislation similar to the new Kansas law, says on its website that it wants to protect Americans` freedoms from "infiltration" by foreign laws and legal doctrines, "especially Islamic Shariah Law”.
Brownback`s office notified the state Senate of his decision yesterday, but he actually signed the measure on Monday.
In a statement, his office said the bill "makes it clear that Kansas courts will rely exclusively on the laws of our state and our nation when deciding cases and will not consider the laws of foreign jurisdictions”.
Muslim groups had urged Brownback to veto the measure, arguing that it promotes discrimination. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, said a court challenge is likely because supporters of the measure frequently expressed concern about Shariah law.
Hooper said of Brownback, "If he claims it has nothing to do with Shariah or Islamic law or Muslims, then he wasn`t paying attention."
Both the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations and the National Conference of State Legislatures say such proposals have been considered in 20 states. Stephen Gele, a spokesman for the American Public Policy Alliance, said laws similar to Kansas` new statute have been enacted in Arizona, Louisiana and Tennessee.
Oklahoma voters approved a ballot initiative in 2010 that specifically mentioned Shariah law, but both a federal judge and a federal appeals court blocked it.
There are no known cases in which a Kansas judge has based a ruling on Islamic law. However, supporters of the bill have cited a pending case in which a man seeking to divorce his wife has asked for property to be divided under a marriage contract in line with Shariah law.