Late Monday evening, the Texas House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee voted unanimously to pass House Bill 911 by Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, a statute that purports to bar Texas courts from applying “foreign laws,” but is really about responding the paranoid fears and biases of those who claim Sharia law is going to “take over the country” (as one of the bill’s supporters testified in committee).
To be clear, every single member of the committee (with one member absent) voted to pass this bill, despite the fact that no one is aware of any legitimate problems the bill will address.
While introducing his bill before the committee on April 4, Rep. Berman was asked to cite “examples specifically that you’re talking about within the United States,” but he was unable to do so. Rep. Berman:
“I can’t tell you that, but the use of, but they’re being used only in the city of Dearborn, Michigan, where a large concentration of Middle Easterners are found and judges are using, or allowing to be used, decisions made under Sharia law.”
And when asked by a Dearborn, Mich., newspaper last week to further clarify this claim, Berman was even more vague:
“I heard it on a radio station here on my way in to the Capitol one day. I don’t know Dearborn, Michigan, but I heard it on the radio. Isn’t that true?”
He heard it on the radio, and 10 members on this committee were willing to take Leo Berman at his word. The same man who is an unrepentant birther because he once saw a YouTube video on the matter (“YouTubes are infallible.”).
Here is the bottom line: The U.S. Constitution already prohibits courts from imposing religious law as civil law, and since the bill authors can’t give any legitimate examples of a problem this legislation would correct, I think everyone knows what is going on here. This is about targeting one group of citizens based on their religious beliefs. If this bill singled out Baptists or Catholics for their religious practices, it wouldn’t see the light of day. But because it’s based on unfounded suspicion of Islam, you apparently don’t need facts or a reasonable argument.
Sometimes defending pluralism and religious freedom is a lonely job in a place like Texas.
HB 911 now moves on to the House Calendars Committee to await a date for consideration by the full Texas House of Representatives.