Anti-Muslim Hysteria Returns: Texas Lawmakers Consider Ban on ‘Religious or Cultural Law’

UPDATE: Rep. Flynn apparently has pulled HJR 43 from committee consideration today. We’ll keep an eye on it.

The absurd campaign to ban the mythical threat of Sharia law (Islamic law) in Texas has returned to the state Capitol. Today the House State Affairs Committee will consider a proposed amendment to the Texas Constitution that says state courts “may not enforce, consider, or apply any religious or cultural law.” Efforts in 2011 to pass similar measure failed, although proponents kept trying into the summer.

HJR 43, by state Rep. Dan Flynn, is based on similar measures that have been pushed in various states. (In 2011, we looked at the man behind the anti-Sharia bills around the country.) Earlier efforts in other states ran into constitutional problems because they singled out Sharia law, making their anti-Muslim bias obvious. So supporters dropped those specific references to Sharia law and, like HJR 43, seek a broad ban on “religious or culture law.” But hysteria over Islam typically take center stage during debates over these measures.

We have a briefing paper on HJR 43 here, but here are the key points about HJR 43 and similar measures.

First, they’re completely unnecessary. The chances that courts will impose Sharia law on Texas are zero — unless we decide to throw out the Texas Constitution and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, both of which already bar imposing religious law as civil law. Indeed, proponents of these measures have never provided clear examples of Texas courts imposing Islamic law on unwilling parties.

Second, HJR 43 could create serious conflicts here in court cases involving foreign laws that have a religious or cultural basis. For example, would state courts recognize marriages performed outside the United States when foreign couples move here? Would state courts also be barred from recognizing agreements freely made by two parties to settle a dispute based on the laws of their own religious faith or other cultural beliefs? Moreover, the American Bar Association explains that the broad language of measures like HJR 43 could interfere with Texas firms engaged in international trade litigation and with Texas businesses negotiating international deals. As stated by one court, the ABA notes, “[w]e cannot have trade and commerce in world markets … exclusively on our terms, governed by our laws.”

Third, measures like HJR 43 are potentially unconstitutional because, as the Anti-Defamation League has said, they “are, at their core, predicated on prejudice and ignorance. They constitute a form of camouflaged bigotry that enables their proponents to advance an idea that finds fault with the Muslim faith and paints all Muslim Americans as foreigners and anti-American crusaders.” If you doubt that contention, simply listen to the public debates over these measures. The anti-Muslim hysteria almost always takes center stage. Stay tuned.

12 thoughts on “Anti-Muslim Hysteria Returns: Texas Lawmakers Consider Ban on ‘Religious or Cultural Law’

  1. Well, this sounds good to me. Seperation of church and state is basic to the American way. I don’t see why any laws based on the Bible should be part of our legal system.

    Or is that not what they meant?

    1. Yes. Ignoring the obvious redundancy & bigotry, wouldn’t this be the perfect way to end the arguments for laws based on religious and cultural ideology/theology — those banning same sex marriage, abortion, contraception, evolution, anti-science….?
      That would be so funny. Hahaha..

  2. Okay, so if this measure passes, then the next time a creationist in the Tx Senate proposes a “critical thinking” or “academic freedom” law that was written by the Discovery Institute, a religious,creationist PR group, then by legal precedent (Aguilard vs La, 1987, Kitzmiller vs Dover , 2005),
    the Texas Senate will be obligated by law to disregard it.
    Cool byproduct of this. Thanks right wingers!

  3. If this passes, would they then have to delete the requirement (in Article 1, Section 4) that candidates for public office “acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being”?

  4. Well, I guess we’ll be safe from the imposition of Canon Law by Catholics if it passes. Now who’s going to keep Old Testament law out of the civil code (like the stoning of witches!)

  5. May the Flying Spaghetti Monster help us all–these people are unbelievably stupid. I love living in Austin, but morons like this make me ashamed to say I’m a Texan.

  6. Many people in this state are so quick to believe anything some GOPer claims about anyone unlike them. Did people not go to school in this state? Are they not capable of forming a common sense opinion before believeing all the BS put out before them? Why are so many in this state purposefully ignorant? It serves no purpose, so I don’t understand it.

  7. I agree with all of the commenters above who would use this law as a cudgel against the American Taliban who run the Republican Party in the state of Texas. The sooner they pass a law banning “religious or culture law”, the sooner we can use their law against them to get science back in the classroom.

    Hooray for the short-sighted Texas theocrats!