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House State Affairs

A large crowd in the House State Affairs Committee meeting room waits Jan 30, 2017 morning to hear Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, far right and wearing a red tie, introduce a bill requiring cities and counties to comply with federal immigration detainers.

Anti-Muslim sentiments may be fading in the Magic Valley, but they’re alive and well in the Statehouse, where last week the State Affairs Committee advanced a bill aimed at blocking Idaho courts from making decisions based on foreign laws.

The bill doesn’t specifically reference Sharia law or Muslims, but make no mistake: This is a nefarious effort by the Idaho GOP’s most radical members, including the bill’s author, Rep. Eric Redmond.

It’s a bill in search of a problem, which even Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter pointed out Thursday morning to reporters.

“I guess I can’t appreciate the concern,” Otter said. “The courts are going to enforce our laws. The courts are not going to enforce some other country’s laws.”

The governor is correct. In response to a rise of anti-Sharia bills surfacing in legislatures across the country, the American Bar Association years ago issued a statement saying as much, reading in part: “American courts will not apply Sharia or other rules (real or perceived) that are contrary to our public policy … .”

So, if there’s no danger of Sharia law being implemented by an Idaho court, let alone enforced by the state, why is this even being discussed in Idaho?

Because far-right fringe hate groups have seized our lawmakers and convinced them there’s an international conspiracy to usurp the American legal system through Sharia law. Instead of listening to actual legal experts like the American Bar Association, these lawmakers have hitched their wagons to well-organized domestic hate groups.

Here’s some background on the issue from the Southern Poverty Law Center:

“One of the most successful far-right conspiracies to achieve mainstream viability, the mass hysteria surrounding a so-called threat of ‘Sharia law’ in the United States is largely the work of anti-Muslim groups such as the American Freedom Law Center and Act of America (ACT), an SPLC-designated hate group. In June, so-called ‘anti-Sharia’ rallies organized by ACT were held across the country and attracted white nationalists, armed right-wing militias and even neo-Nazis.”

Yes, these are the kinds of folks Idaho lawmakers are taking advice from these days.

These hate groups masquerade as policy think tanks and have in their pockets lawmakers in legislatures across the country willing to do the their bidding by introducing bills exactly like the one advanced by Idaho’s State Affairs Committee. In fact, the groups even offer model legislation so lawmakers don’t have to write their own bills.

Most states have seen through this ruse and rejected similar bills. But in Idaho, lawmakers are being played like fiddles.

It should be disturbing to any voter that our elected leaders can be so easily fooled and manipulated in such ways. But what’s especially troubling to us is a fundamental lack of understanding displayed by lawmakers of our own U.S. Constitution, which carries legal superiority to any other form of law.

True patriots accept and celebrate the fact that our legal system and the rule of law are so sound as to be impervious to manipulations by foreign or religious legal systems. Do these Idaho Republicans really believe our constitutions are so fragile they could be manipulated in such ways? Or that our judges are so far disconnected from hundreds of years of American law that they’d even entertain issuing a ruling based on foreign legal concepts?

There are no known cases of any judge in Idaho ever allowing Sharia law to usurp the state and federal constitutions, despite unsupported claims by the bills’ backers that the American legal system us under attack from Sharia law.

That leaves us with two possible conclusions. Either Idaho’s GOP needs a civics lesson on the Constitution, or they harbor anti-Muslim sentiments. Maybe both.

Either option is a disgrace.

Voting against this bill were Reps. Dustin Manwaring, R-Pocatello, and Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello.

Voting in favor were Thomas F. Loertscher, Jason A. Monks, Lynn M. Luker, Brent J. Crane, Joe Palmer, Vito Barbieri, James Holtzclaw, Steven Harris, Randy Armstrong, Priscilla Giddings, Christy Zito and Heather Scott.

We urge folks to contact these lawmakers and others in the House, where the bill heads next to the floor, and let them know Idaho has more important business to focus on, and that allowing hate groups to co-opt and influence our legislative process through conspiracy theories is far more dangerous than anything posed by law-abiding American Muslims.


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