Senate passes bill against foreign law use in courts

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- In the final days of the 2012 Oklahoma legislative session, the local chapter of the ACLU is hoping a last-minute bill doesn't make its way through the state capitol.

Two years ago, voters approved a measure prohibiting the courts from using international or Sharia law when making rulings.

However, an appeals court ruled that measure unconstitutional.

State Senator Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa) describes the thought of foreign law trumping state law to justify a crime as "appalling."

He's the author of Senate Bill 671, which aims to "protect its citizens from certain applications of foreign laws."

Although Newberry said he can't cite a case where foreign law has negated state or federal law, "sometimes preemptive medicine is the best medicine."

He said there have been other incidents around the country where courts are using foreign law to determine cases.

"I think it's a dangerous precedence," Newberry said. "We should be talking about our state, our rules, our laws when determining cases within our boundaries."

ACLU Executive Director Ryan Kiesel said this bill feeds into an unhealthy attitude toward muslim Americans.

"The people of Oklahoma might tend to believe that there's this problem when there's just not," he said. "That problem just does not exist."

In a time when the legislature is fighting a deadline to come to an agreement on a budget, income tax cuts and even repairs to the Capitol, Kiesel believes the bill is a waste of time.

"I think the legislators have a lot more on their hands and I think the taxpayers of Oklahoma would agree with that," he said.

But Newberry said the Senate has filtered through over 4,000 bills this year and has decided this issue was very important.

"The bill doesn't specify a religion or a group of people," he said. "The bill talks about the laws of the state of Oklahoma and how we believe they should be interpreted by the judges."

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill 40-to-3.

It now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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