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.