Current Date: Sat, 08 Mar 2014 01:37:45 -0500
CLARIFICATION: An early version of this story said that the North Carolina Bar Association did not take a position on the bill signed into law. The bill that became law was not signed by the governor.
Gov. Pat McCrory cleared his desk of pending legislation on Friday, signing 33 remaining bills approved by the N.C. General Assembly over the summer.
But a 34th bill went unsigned — House Bill 522 — which became law on Monday without his signature. The legislation, sponsored by six Republican representatives, restricts foreign law in N.C. courts, including Islamic Sharia law in family cases.
It also affects other religious law, including Jewish law.
According to a May 2011 report from the American Civil Liberties Union, there is no evidence to suggest Sharia law is encroaching on U.S. courts. But according to the report, legislators across the country still support legally barring Islamic law from the courts.
“(The legislation is) primarily designed to stir up anti-Islamic prejudice by creating fears that Islamic Sharia law is somehow going to take over the American legal system,” Carl Ernst, a religious studies professor at UNC, said in an email.
Ernst said there is a small group of anti-Sharia law extremists who have managed to infiltrate the political landscape and make Sharia law seem like a threat.
“This argument is being made by a small extremist fringe, who managed to push it onto the agenda with the help of right-wing politicians in a number of states around the country,” he said.
Ernst said the bill was created to address a threat that does not exist.
While the North Carolina Bar Association opposed the law in a previous version — House Bill 695 — a spokesman said the association did not take a position on the bill that became law.
The previous version explicitly called for a ban on Sharia law, as opposed to general foreign laws, and also included tighter regulations for abortion clinics which were later removed and added onto a motorcycle safety bill.
Some non-secular student organizations at UNC say the legislation infringes upon their religious rights.
Noam Soker, co-president of UNC’s North Carolina Hillel, said in an email that her organization does not feel that Sharia law will threaten N.C. law.
“N.C. Hillel takes issue with any laws that unfairly single out one minority group,” Soker said, adding that the Hillel would lobby against a ban.
“As part of a statewide organization, N.C. Hillel doesn’t feel there is any danger of Sharia law superseding local, state or federal law, and doesn’t think that N.C. judges need to be reminded of the standing of one legal system relative to the other.”
When asked about the law, Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, a primary sponsor of the bill, said he had concerns about the changes the legislation had undergone since he first signed on as a sponsor:
“In the process of government making laws, it somehow became a different bill than what we originally drafted the bill to be. I ended up being a primary sponsor on a bill I really had nothing to do with.”