Texas legislator seeks ban on Sharia law

State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler

This just in from the Twitters: Looks like right-wing State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, has filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar state courts from enforcing, considering or applying any religious or cultural law. Berman appears to be seeking something similar to the constitutional amendment passed by Oklahoma voters last year outlawing Sharia law, or Islamic law. A federal judge has blocked enforcement of the Oklahoma amendment — which passed overwhelmingly — while she determines whether it’s in line with the U.S. Constitution. Of course, the irony here is that if religious-based law were banned in Texas or Oklahoma, you’d have to throw out half the books, including the bans on same-sex marriage. People like Berman don’t want a ban on religious law; they want a ban on non-fundamentalist Christian law.

—  John Wright

Oklahoma lawmakers spar over how conservative to be

After sweeping into power in November’s election, state’s ultra-conservative Republicans take aim at moderate House leader

Sean Murphy  |  editor@dallasvoice.com

OKLAHOMA CITY — As Republicans in control of the Oklahoma House opened two days of meetings to set their 2011 agenda this week, their incoming leader was taking shots from the chamber’s ultra-conservative wing because he has put the state’s struggling economy at the top of his agenda rather than social issues.

KrisSteele
Oklahoma State Rep. Kris Steele

Members of the House GOP meet Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 6-7. in Bartlesville, and Kris Steele, who will be formally elected as House Speaker next month, believes the Legislature next year should concentrate on economic development and plugging holes in the state budget.

More-conservative Republicans want legislators to tighten access to abortion, relax regulations on firearms and attempt to restrict immigration.

“There’s going to be some fireworks within the caucus,” said state Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, who acknowledged some of his GOP colleagues have privately questioned whether Steele is too liberal to lead the House.

For the first time in state history, Republicans in Oklahoma will control the House, Senate and the governor’s mansion, after Oklahoma voters in November ushered in huge gains for the GOP, including all eight Democrat-held statewide seats on the ballot.

Steele, a soft-spoken minister from Shawnee, said House Republicans are still united — but cracks are obvious among the 70-member-strong Republican majority as they hammer out their agenda for the legislative session that begins in February.

This week’s meetings haven’t gone unnoticed by Oklahomans wanting action on social issues. But moderate House Republicans fear an inordinate amount of attention on social issues will create a House divided and divert attention from the budget and a struggling Oklahoma economy.

“I’m seeing people every day who are concerned because they don’t have a job or health insurance,” said Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, an emergency room physician in far northeast Oklahoma. “They could care less about right-to-carry [firearms]), abortion, gays. They’re worried about their health care and putting food on the table.”

State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, agrees.

“I would ask my ultra-conservative friends — do they understand that we are in the bottom of median family income, that we lead the nation in incarceration of female prisoners, that some of our nonviolent, criminal statutes are some of the most oppressive in the nation?” he asked. “We have serious issues in the state that are challenging us, especially when the budget situation is as bleak as it’s been in the history of this state.”

For his part, Steele says he’s never wavered on his commitment to expanding gun rights, restricting abortion or targeting illegal immigration. He said he supports a measure to allow for open carrying of firearms that Democratic Gov. Brad Henry vetoed last year, and that he will not thwart legislative attempts to further restrict abortion or address illegal immigration.

“Just because I’d like to pursue initiatives to create a business-friendly environment in Oklahoma and give us the opportunity to foster job creation and job opportunities for Oklahomans does not mean I’m any less committed to my stance on pro-life issues or Second Amendment rights or states’ rights or any of those things,” Steele said. “I think we can take a balanced approach and pursue an agenda that ultimately accommodates both arenas.”

Republican Gov.-elect Mary Fallin said she agrees with Steele that the state’s budget and fostering a good business environment should be the top priority for lawmakers when they return to the state Capitol in February.

“We’ve got to focus on getting Oklahoma’s economy back on track, creating the very best business climate possible,” Fallin said. “We’ll certainly consider the other ideas that the Legislature has, and that’s not to take away from their ideas, but just says these are the important priorities I believe will get Oklahoma back on track.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Ban on Sharia law in Okla. ruled unconstitutional

Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange

A federal judge stopped short of declaring Oklahoma voters a bunch of dumbasses, but she did rule that their attempt to outlaw Sharia law is unconstitutional, according to the Daily Oklahoman.

U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange issued a 15-page ruling throwing out the state constitutional amendment. On Nov. 2, Oklahoma voters approved the amendment that would have prohibited state courts from considering or using Sharia law despite the fact that state courts had never used – nor had plans to use — Sharia law. The constitutional amendment passed with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Sharia is Islamic law based on the Quran and the teachings of Muhammed. It includes the Ten Commandments — so the amendment effectively made the Ten Commandments illegal in Oklahoma.

Miles-LaGrange wrote in her opinion, “This order addresses issues that go to the very foundation of our country, our Constitution, and particularly, the Bill of Rights.”

Supporters of the law said it was a defense against such practices as marital rape. However, state laws already make such practices  illegal.

Muneer Awad, the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma, filed suit against the amendment claiming it violated his freedom of religion.

The judge ruled that he had standing in the case and that he would have suffered injury to his First Amendment rights. Awad lives in Oklahoma, is a Muslim and “the amendment conveys an official government message of disapproval and hostility toward his religious beliefs, that sends a clear message he is an outsider, not a full member of the political community, thereby chilling his access to the government and forcing him to curtail his political and religious activities.”

Republican State Rep. Rex Duncan was the author of the amendment. He said it wasn’t intended to attack Muslims but rather was a “pre-emptive strike.”

Aren’t pre-emptive strikes usually attacks?

And wasn’t the only terrorist attack that has taken place in Oklahoma — the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building — carried out by a couple of Christian guys?

—  David Taffet