Friday, December 27, 2013

Islamophobia 2013: Lawmaking that makes me mourn for our democracy

Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) is a former teacher and the daughter of a Baptist pastor. Governor Mary Fallin signed Kern's anti-Islam bill into law in  April 2013.

Wishful thinking, I know, but one would hope a history of personal prejudice might disuade other lawmakers from endorsing her bill, but apparently not.

In 2011, Kern was reprimanded by the Oklahoma House for disparaging women and ethnic minorities. As reported by The Oklahoman, "During a debate Wednesday night on the House of Representatives floor, Kern said minorities earn less than white people and women
earn less than men because they don't work as hard and have less initiative."

In 2008, Kern expressed her view that, "Gays are an even bigger threat than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat."

Her bill's easily identifiable genesis in a hate movement also had no impact on the legislative process.

In 2010, Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved the “Save Our State Amendment,” a state constitutional amendment that specifically banned judges from considering Islamic religious principles.

In 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld a lower court's decision to block amendment's implementation. The lower court had agreed with arguments that the amendment would unconstitutionally disfavor an entire faith and deny Oklahoma's Muslims access to the judicial system on the same terms as every other citizen.

While the legal issues were being settled, legislators went back to the drawing board to find a way to achieve the goal of vilifying Islam without breaking the law.

The resulting bill was Kern's HB 1060. 

It’s wording is clearly lifted from American Laws for American Courts (ALAC). Kern acknowledged that her 2011 bill was copied almost word-for-word from the ALAC template, which was authored by a man known for writing “most of the fundamental differences between the races are genetic."

Further, reporting revealed that she consulted with the Center for Security Policy (CSP) on her 2011 bill and “some of the momentum for her bill comes from the work of Brigitte Gabriel.” I have documented the Islamophobic nature of both CSP and Brigitte Gabriel.

Like many legislators using ALAC, Kern has argued that her bill does not single out Muslims or Islam. However, as Kern herself pointed out, “Because of the careful planning and thought behind ALAC's wording, from a practical standpoint, it is effective in preventing the enforcement of any foreign law—including Shariah law—that would violate U.S. and state constitutional liberties or state public policy.”

I am all for protecting constitutional liberties, maybe Oklahoma could pass something to protect its citizens from the NSA. Instead, elected officials there choose to pursue a fantastical hobgoblin and reward a prejudiced lawmaker and her prejudiced bill with a seal of approval.   

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