Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Reactions: Kansas Governor Signs Anti-Foreign Law Bill

On Friday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback announced that he had signed HB 79, a bill which prohibits any foreign laws (implicitly sharīʿa) from being applied in American courts. HB 79, which was already approved by the state legislature, will become effective on July 1st.

"The bill," elaborated Sherriene Jones-Sontag, the Communications Director/Press Secretary for the Office of Governor Sam Brownback, "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."

Seal of the State of Kansas (Wikimedia Commons).
She continued, "this disturbing recent trend of activist judges relying upon the laws of other nations has been rejected by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the Kansas House and Senate."

The American Public Policy Alliance (APPA) hailed the signing as a victory, adding that HB 79 is in no way discriminatory. Rather, it protects values like freedom of speech, religion and ensures equal treatment under the law.

Added APPA spokesman Stephen Gele, who insisted that HB 79 is constitutional, "the bill should provide protection for Kansas citizens from the application of foreign laws. The bill does not read in any way, to be discriminatory against any religion." (For an ongoing case cited by APPA as evidence of the need for HB 79, click here).

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced the bill, cited bigotry, discrimination, and demonization of Muslims; furthermore, argued CAIR, supporters of HB 79 frequently alluded to sharīʿa as a main concern despite the fact that it is not mentioned by name in the bill. The CAIR promised to challenge HB 79 in the future.

Other concerns, as we have seen in other states where anti-sharīʿa legislation was proposed, are related to how HB 79 will affect carrying out marriages, wills, burials as well as international business and contracts with multinational corporations. One provision of HB 79 that could be said to address this concern is the fact that it bans only foreign laws "that would not grant the parties the same fundamental liberties, rights and privileges granted under the United States and Kansas Constitutions."

However, it is not clear whether HB 79 will provide protect citizens' rights, or discourage foreign businesses from operating in a perceived intolerant and discriminatory environment in Kansas. Overall, the bill remains controversial. 

No comments: