No Shariah in South Carolina?
by W. THOMAS SMITH, JR.
January 27, 2011
The South Carolina State House, in Columbia, S.C.
COLUMBIA, S.C. – A legislative initiative aimed at preventing “a court or other enforcement authority” from enforcing foreign law in the Palmetto State was introduced yesterday in both the S.C. House and Senate by Rep. Wendy Nanney (who drafted the bill) and Sen. Mike Fair respectively, who say the bill will preempt violations of a person’s constitutional rights resulting from the application of foreign law.
Legislators and other proponents of the bill say America has unique values of liberty which do not exist in foreign legal systems. Yet foreign laws are increasingly finding their way into U.S. court cases, particularly in the area of family law, involving divorce and child custody where, for instance, Islamic Shariah Law has been invoked in several U.S. states.
According to Christopher Holton with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Security Policy (CSP), “There are numerous examples in dozens of states in which parties to such a dispute attempted to invoke Shariah.”
David Yersushalmi, general counsel to the CSP, argues it’s not just “patently bad foreign laws [creeping into our court systems],” it’s that once in the system, the state’s police power would be used to “enforce laws that could never pass federal or state constitutional muster.”
Fair agrees, which is why he introduced the bill in the Senate.
“S.C., like other states, recognizes the need to assert the fact that our state and U.S. constitutions are the basis for civil law in our country,” says Fair. “Some locales have been threatened by the encroachment of foreign law into local, state and or federal law despite obvious violations of our constitutions. A growing concern is the immigration of people who are accustomed to their religion and their civil laws being inextricably connected. For those newcomers to our state, this bill will be helpful to them as they are assimilated into our culture maintaining complete freedom to worship as they please.”
Nanney, who introduced the bill in the House with 20 sponsors and co-sponsors, says that “in speaking with several family court judges, I’ve learned that foreign law has been invoked here in S.C.” She adds, that foreign law includes not just foreign religious law, but foreign secular law from various countries.
Problem is few South Carolinians – or Americans for that matter – are aware of this, until now.
Similar bills were successfully supported last year in Louisiana and Tennessee.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor, who writes about military/defense issues and has covered conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq and Lebanon. Visit his website at uswriter.com.