10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Rules Against Bans on Shari'a Law

Andrew Cohen highlights and explains key sections of a ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (which you can read in full here) that considers attempts to outlaw all  use of international law in legal judgments in the United States and which places special emphasis on outlawing considerations of Shari’a law as any form of precedence. The issues are legally and morally knotty so Cohen’s analysis and selected portions of the reading are well worth taking a look at.

Secularists need to walk a crucial, thin line between making sure there is one law for all and that religious groups do not get to persuade their members to forego the liberties and rights of a democratic society out of pressures to defer to religious theocratic judgments instead. But also, in America, where there is no agitation from the Muslim population to have the option of letting Shari’a courts instead of federal and state courts decide things for them, the preemptive attempts to exclude them in advance seem driven more by fear of foreigners with a foreign religion than any commitment to secularism and inclusiveness.

It is odd too that Christian conservatives want to outlaw judges from considering foreign and international laws and the laws of religions from influencing their decisions in cases when they simultaneously want the reasoning of the Bible—which certainly was not written by Americans!—and the precedents of an alleged “three thousand years'” worth of non-homosexual monogamous marriage to determine our marriage laws in the future. Not many of those “three thousand” years of precedence were American.

I get their concern about unAmerican values being used to interpret our laws and being treated as legal precedent. I just think they’re awfully hypocritical to insist that a foreign, theocratic law code like the Ten Commandments—with its legal demands against having any gods but Yahweh—should be displayed in every court house and be considered the bedrock of American law.

I have explicated in more depth the difference between American and fundamentalist values in the posts: American vs. Fundamentalist Values and How Christian Beliefs And Values Are No More Creditable With America’s Founding Than Islamic Ones.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.