The Gospel Coalition

The Story: In 2010, voters in Oklahoma passed a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would prohibit state courts from using international law or Sharia law when making rulings. But last Thursday, a federal judge ruled the amendment violated religious freedoms granted by the U.S. Constitution.

The Background: Sharia is the moral code and religious law of Islam that deals with topics addressed by secular law, including crime, politics, and economics, as well as personal matters such as sexual relations, hygiene, diet, and prayer. The two primary sources of Sharia law are the Quran and the example set by the founder of Islam, Muhammad. The introduction of Sharia across the globe is a longstanding goal for Islamist movements.

In her ruling the judge wrote that "it is abundantly clear that the primary purpose of the amendment was to specifically target and outlaw Sharia law and to act as a preemptive strike against Sharia law to protect Oklahoma from a perceived 'threat' of Sharia law being utilized in Oklahoma courts."


Why It Matters: Opposing Sharia law may appear to be commonsensical measure. But there is a compelling reason why Christians should join in rejecting anti-Sharia legislation: By helping to push the idea that religious beliefs should be kept private, anti-Sharia laws are a threat to all of our religious liberties. As the Catholic legal scholar Robert K. Vischer explained last year in First Things:


Though popular with secularists and religious conservatives, anti-Sharia legislation does not defend against theocracy but calls into question our society's fundamental commitments to meaningful religious liberty and meaningful access to the courts. These commitments have been relied on by generations of Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, and Jews, and to try to remove them for Muslims both is unjust to Muslims and sets a dangerous precedent for other religious groups.

[. . .]

Before Christian and Jewish believers support such measures, they should consider the way these laws not only misunderstand the faith of their Muslim fellow citizens but threaten their own religious liberty. Muslim Americans who seek to use Sharia are not asking the American legal system to adopt Islamic rules of conduct, penal or otherwise. Muslims have introduced Sharia in court not in an attempt to establish a freestanding source of law binding on litigants but rather in recognition of the norms to which the litigants have already agreed to be bound.

American courts do this every day—it's called contract law. Even the literature being pumped out by anti-Sharia organizations shows that their target is not the threat posed by the imposition of Sharia on American society but rather the threat posed by the introduction of Sharia according to the same criteria of admissibility applied by courts to other religious codes.


Vischer gives an example of a Baptist church, whose rules may state that a pastor can be removed only by a vote of the entire membership. If the court determines that a small group of members ousted the pastor without the required vote, the court will uphold the pastor's challenge despite the fact that the rules are based on a religious commitment (i.e., the Baptist commitment to the priesthood of all believers).

Another example is when courts enforce arbitration agreements based on biblical principles pursuant to widely invoked rules of "Christian conciliation." To exclude similar agreements between Muslims that are based on Islamic principles would be to violate their freedom of religion -- and set a precedent that could jeopardize the religious liberty of Christians.

As Vischer adds, "the presumption that the deepest core values and convictions of religious Americans threaten the legal order by virtue of their source, without reference to their substance." If we don't want biblical principles to be terms excluded from American court system, then we can't let Sharia be excluded either.


Comments:

Evangelicals Against Sharia Bans

September 2, 2013 at 09:00 AM

[...] August 19 article titled “The Dangers of Anti-Sharia Laws” was written by Joe Carter, an editor for the Gospel Coalition and senior editor at the Action [...]

[...] of ALAC advanced by those with good intentions, such as Joe Carter, who criticized ALAC in “The Dangers of Anti-Sharia Laws,” which was published in The Gospel Coalition Blog, and by those with evil in mind, such as the [...]

Ruster

September 16, 2013 at 09:09 PM

Right on Gabe! If Shariah Law is so great why are so many Muslims fleeing their country? Don't come here & try to change the U.S. of A & our Constitution (the only one in the history of the world to guarantee freedom). Change your laws to copy our freedoms. When in the U.S. of A do as the Americans do. If you don't like it, leave. Don't mess with us.

Joe Carter

September 16, 2013 at 07:41 PM

How is that video a "rebuttal" since it reaffirms most of what I wrote in the article? (Did you even watch the video?)

In the video Mr. Muise says that ALAC allows the use of Sharia for all the ways in which I defended in my article. In fact, he seems to be saying that all ALAC does is prevent any form of international law from trumping the Constitution. I'm not sure why it's needed since it seems to do nothing more than reaffirm the Supremacy Clause (Article VI, clause 2) of the U.S. Constitution.

Kelly Kafir

September 16, 2013 at 06:15 PM

http://youtu.be/AhUcuSyS6jk

Here is a rebuttal of Joe Carter's article

Kelly Kafir

September 16, 2013 at 06:10 PM

You do not understand this law. And you, a so called Christian, might want to look up over your pulpit once in awhile to see what Shari'ah adhering Muslims are doing to Christians around the world.

[...] of ALAC advanced by those with good intentions, such as Joe Carter, who criticized ALAC in “The Dangers of Anti-Sharia Laws,” which was published in The Gospel Coalition Blog, and by those with evil in mind, such as [...]

RACHEL sARGENT

March 12, 2014 at 01:02 AM

None of the other religions threaten to kill people or not allow others to practice their religions. Think about the many persecuted Christians around the world most of them in countries where Sharia law is practiced. Islam is not a religion mainly, it is an ideology. Their "religion of peace" kills people, disfigures and abuses women and tortures Christians all over the world. I know of no other religion that does that. Just ask the UK how Sharia Law is affecting them. It is clear that in writing this article you equate Islam with all the aforementioned religions. They are not the same.

Gabriel

August 27, 2013 at 03:21 PM

Yes Lothars. Ron is right. Apples and Oranges. The Koran and the OT are ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ALIKE. I can't stand people making ignorant, uneducated and untrue statements as if its common knowledge!

Gabriel

August 27, 2013 at 02:38 PM

This article shows a lack of understanding regarding Shariah Law. It is NOT merely a religious, moral code. It is a set of socio-political laws. To the Muslims, it is the law that Allah gave and Allah intended for this law to govern and rule the world... not just the Muslim world, but the WHOLE world. As adherent's and proponents of its implementations will state in plain language, Shariah Law is to be the rule of the land under Muslim control. Therefore, since Muslims seek and desire a world-wide Caliphate (i.e. Muslim political and religous control of the world), Shariah law would force non-Muslims to submit to Muslim laws and rules. Shariah Law sould be superior to the U.S. Constitution. These so-called anti-Shariah Law bills and laws do not limit religious freedom... they GUARANTEE religious freedom for non-Muslims. Muslims will still be able to worship freely, but they will not be able to challenge the authority of the U.S. Constitution, nor any other laws, using Shariah Law as its basis. We need FEDERAL LAWS that are exactly the same as these state laws!

BG

August 25, 2013 at 06:06 PM

Joe,

Good article and thanks for the effort...the vast majority of your dissenters seem to be lacking reading comprehension skills or have a poor understanding of the issue in question. Keep up the good work.

BG

August 25, 2013 at 06:01 PM

LS,

Does the Hebrew Scripture describe genoicide and 'terror texts' or does it describe a holy God dispensing capital punishment for the crimes of nations? Consider Leviticus 18:25ff

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus%2018:24-30&version=ESV

John Weis

August 23, 2013 at 12:25 PM

And here is a picture of "two men from the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice beating a woman because she removed her burqa in public": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Taliban_beating_woman_in_public_RAWA.jpg

Laws are only laws if they are enforced.

You're saying that we should take some solace that the desires of "voters in Oklahoma" who "passed a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would prohibit state courts from using international law or Sharia law when making rulings" were overturned by a federal judge?

So, the judge said that other judges can infer and reason from other bodies of law to decide rulings on cases that are brought before him? What sort of jurisprudence do you adhere to?

A judge may only sit in judgment on cases done within a particular jurisdiction based on the common law and law of the land.

Lothars Sohn

August 23, 2013 at 06:39 PM

I find such kind of discussion interesting but frustrating at the same time due to the unwillingness of conservative Christians to recognize that the Bible contains terror texts which are worse than those of the Coran.
Unlike (some Biblical descriptions of) Mose and Joshua, Mohamed was completely against the killing of babies and pregnant women alike by soldiers.


Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

Carrie Li

August 22, 2013 at 08:47 AM

http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/08/21/the-muslim-war-against-christians/

Dillon

August 21, 2013 at 09:46 AM

Adnan, thank you for your thoughtful follow-up!

Could you offer examples of diverse Islamic ways to govern, which still find full alignment with Qur'an and Sunnah? From my limited understanding of Sharia, the laws therein are comprehensive, from economics down to one's hygiene. Perhaps you mean to say there are diverse ways of *carrying out* Sharia law? But my point is not to raise concern about the means of carrying it out, but rather, to raise issue as an American with the sheer comprehensiveness of the system.

Moreover, among the Muslims with whom I've spoken, almost all have said it would be offensive if America said to them in essence, "We'll let you follow x and y from Sharia law, but not z," in which case, the "word of Allah" does *not* govern all, and there remains a genuine sense of angst to promote it in its full sweep.

This is why it is of little comfort to say that Muslims living outside Muslim lands follow the law of the country they live in (though this is undoubtedly true--the vast majority of American Muslims are kind, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens). The constitution guarantees free exercise of religion. But the totally free exercise of Islam means its adherents submit themselves to Sharia as primary authority in all spheres of life, rather than the constitution or American state laws. Hence the tension in question.

In most cases, this isn't a problem, since Sharia generally does not work against the laws of a given state. (Most of Sharia's laws are innocuous.) But such laws as were passed in Oklahoma were simply to ensure that whenever there is a conflict between Sharia law and American civil law, Sharia law may not be appealed to in civil courts for legal conclusions.

And yet, many of those same peaceful Muslims--or those who take Qur'an seriously, or are theologically conservative--are often passionate about seeing America become a Muslim nation, since, according to Qur'an, this will happen eventually anyway (Sura 61:9, 48:28, & 9:33). Even on an understanding of jihad as nonviolent and purely spiritual, which I gather is the dominant mainstream interpretation of those verses (esp. 9:33), the goal is nevertheless to demonstrate a global dominance, and unique to Islam is that spiritual power's inevitable mixing with civil authority.

Put another way: If the aim of Islam is *not* civil legislative power, then why not interact with the American constitution and state laws as Christians do?--that is, rather than championing an entire body of laws to be adopted in civil courts, fight instead for individual policies derived from said religious heritage.

By all means, Muslims should feel free to bring Sharia and their religious convictions to the table in the public square just as Christians do. But our religious governing documents, our religious governing bodies (whether elders/pastors in the local church, or the imam or qadis in the local mosque) must neither govern the state (by carrying the authority of civil law), nor carry out civil punishment.

From a Christian perspective, this is (in part) because Jesus brought God's promise to Abraham to fulfillment (Gen. 12:2-3), whereby the locus of God's people is no longer the nation-state of Israel, but a transnational community who share that most important commonality of all--a trust in Christ as savior. The good news is that salvation is available as God's grace gift, and it is available to all people groups--Amen!

Jesus likewise makes many distinctions in spheres of power in Mark 12:17, Mark 10:42-45, and elsewhere, not to say Christians can't participate in the civil arena, or champion laws we favor because of our faith--of course we can. The point, rather, is to distinguish, among other things, spheres of influence.

My sincere apologies for this response's length, Adnan. I hope I've been fair, and I recognize that my generalizations concerning Muslim views are merely that--generalizations, gathered from my own experiences. There are as many opinions among Muslims on this matter as there are Muslims who consider it. What seems far less diverse, however, is Sharia itself, and the principles appealed to in Qur'an. But it is the latter which concern us here--not the former. Cheers, friend!

Perry

August 21, 2013 at 07:54 AM

the hadith is the main basis for sharia law. while i can agree and understand your argument for religious freedom, our court system will allow sharia to creep into the law and society because by in large judges have walked away from absolutes thus rejecting the basis for our legal system. the acceptance of sharia is just another example of society's total rejection of the Gospel and Jesus Christ who is the True and Living God.
"Muslim Americans who seek to use Sharia are not asking the American legal system to adopt Islamic rules of conduct, penal or otherwise." if you think they will not seek adoption of sharia into our legal system, think again. muslims -- American, Saudi, Indonesian or otherwise -- will never stand against other muslims who seek to push sharia into our legal system.

Why Christians Should Oppose Anti-Sharia Laws

August 20, 2013 at 11:32 AM

[...] at The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter has a smart and important piece on why Christians should oppose anti-Sharia laws. Aside from the legal problems it creates, such laws assume that religious ideas should be private [...]

Adnan Ilyas

August 20, 2013 at 10:42 PM

It is true that Islam makes no distinction between "church" and state. Secularism makes very little sense from an Islamic stand point. However, there is also no clear Islamic way to govern. There is also no hierarchal system that would be equivalent to a church, so there wouldn't be much of an organized religious authority.

FInally, Islam mandates that Muslims who choose to live outside Muslim lands follow the law of country they live in. The fact of the matter is, the United States allows for more religious freedom than any other country in the world. It is easier to practice Islam as one sees fit under the law than in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or Egypt and American Muslims see no reason to change that.

Adnan Ilyas

August 20, 2013 at 10:37 PM

Islam does not assume a disequality between Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Jews and Christians are often praised in the Qur'an as "the people of the Book". Moses, the Jewish prophet, is the most mentioned prophet in the Qur'an. Jesus is either second or third, with Abraham being the other. The primary beliefs of Muslims include belief in the sacred books which includes the Qur'an, the Bible, the Torah, the Psalms of David, and some scrolls Abraham had (though we do not know what parts of the current editions are sacred, so we do not follow them). Mary is the only woman in Qur'an and she is praised continuously. When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had his first revelation, his wife took him to see her cousin who was a man of faith. He was a Christian.

Islam also very much improved upon women's rights. It ended the long standing tradition of burying newborn girls for being female. It also protected the rights of women to have a business (The prophet's wife was his employer at first), and improved upon their rights in marriage, including in protecting their right to divorce.

Adnan Ilyas

August 20, 2013 at 10:28 PM

Actually, the right for a woman to ask for divorce is protected by Sharia law.

Adnan Ilyas

August 20, 2013 at 10:24 PM

I am a Muslim but I am neither a lawyer nor a religious scholar.

Sharia, to my understanding, has a lot to do with the rules that Muslims follow daily. Don't drink alcohol, don't eat pork, etc. Then there are separate legal documents, think marriage contracts/pre-nuptials, and wills. That is civil law.

There is a separate criminal system in Sharia Law. That is where specific crimes are given per punishment, where a certain number of witnesses are required for a prosecution, etc. Religious criminal law is NEVER considered in the United States. Never has, never will, and nobody, including American Muslims, wants that to change.

To my understanding, Oklahoma law is advertised to block the criminal system, when, in reality, the civil system is being undermined. Once again, Islamic criminal law will never be enforced in the United States, which is what proponents of the law argued would happen. What the law does is prevent Muslims, and Muslims only, to follow custom in things like marriage and wills.

George S. Whitten, Sr.

August 20, 2013 at 09:54 AM

I think the muddled thinking going on here is not where some believe it to be.

Lets take an illustration that we may well see in future newspapers:

(AP - Boston, June 21, 2017) The appeal of the Knox Presbyterian Church (OP) to the Supreme Court of Massachusetts was denied today in a unanimous decision of the justices. In 2015 the Church excommunicated two of its female members because they insisted upon living together as homosexuals in defiance of the church’s homophobic teaching. The couple, of course, immediately filed suit, and the trial court ruled in their favor, issuing an injunction against the Church continuing to bar the couple from communion, and instating a fine of $5,000 a day for every day of noncompliance with its order. The church appealed, but the trial court denied its application to suspend the fine pending the appeal.

A principal factor in the court’s decision was the anti-Sharia law of Massachusetts, passed in 2014 following the Jihadist attack that demolished the East wing of United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The Court stated that since, under the anti-Sharia law of Massachusetts, Muslims are forbidden from implementing any internal religious rules that are contrary to public policy, and since discrimination against gays is against the public policy of the State, the Church is barred from discrimination against gays due to the Equal Protection clause of the United States Constitution which requires that no state deny its citizens the equal protection of the laws.

The Pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church, Calvin Van Til Smith, stated that, although the Christian community throughout the country had been very generous in helping with the fines and legal expenses, it would be disbanding immediately, as it could not in good conscience comply with the Court’s decision.

JohnM

August 20, 2013 at 08:57 PM

The real problem here is not that the court is ruling against the church but that the court is ruling on the matter of "internal religious rules" at all. I don't want the court on my side in these matters, I want the court to recognize that it's not their business in the first place. I would be equally opposed to the court telling Muslims who they have to include, and I doubt the Oklahoma amendment had the intent or would have the effect of doing that. Sharia law, as described above in fact, (religious law of Islam that deals with topics addressed by secular law) seems to involve much more than internal religious rules. I'm not convinced there really is a Christian analog to Sharia law, at least not in the U.S., nor would I want there to be.

Nate

August 20, 2013 at 08:09 AM

Joe,
I think the scope of Sharia is where the issue gets complicated. Sharia is so comprehensive that it is concerning if a little gets into the legal system because how do you stop all of it from filtering in. (A little yeast works through the whole dough).
A person has to trust that the legal system can make the distinction between the portions of Sharia law that are compatible with American law and those parts that are not. I don't know that there is great confidence in our system to be able to make that distinction.

Lowell

August 20, 2013 at 05:01 PM

Joe, Joe, Joe,

The above posts have made better arguments than I could for the disallowance of Sharia law in our land. But I would attempt to correct your response to my post at the beginning of this thread. Disallowing Sharia law into our courts is not a violation of the First Amendment. It is not a "targeting" of one religious group. Our Constitution brilliantly constructs a form of government based on one predominant worldview (Judeo/Christian) while protecting the rights and safety of those professing allegiance to others. Honest Islamists tell us plainly that it is the intention of Sharia to turn over and crush all states and religions not under its system. Why can you not believe them? Your argument is like saying that the only way to avoid violating our Constitution is to give it enough rope to hang itself.

T. Babbit

August 20, 2013 at 04:52 PM

This whole "anti-Shariah movement" is not only ridiculous, it is a waste of tax payers' dollars, and an ongoing missed opportunity to actually engage in meaningful, mutually-respectful dialogue with people. And, longer this "debate" and otherwise non-real issue continues, the more ignorant the American general mass appears--do we all not recall from high school civics or government that if you are in the United States legally or illegally, a citizen or not, the Constitution is THE law of the land...regardless of your religious beliefs.

Lastly, as I'm sure it's already been noted in previous comments, there are extremist elements in every religion, culture, etc. But here's a secret, extremists don't represent an entire group of people or society...if they did, they would be the "normal" ones. Anyone can turn to their respective religious text and point out a not-so-glamourous period where there was some type of war or smiting taking place. It's beyond time politicians (and their ilk) stop fear-mongering (i.e. wasting time, tax payers' money, and political capital), and it's definitely time Americans start informing themselves and broadening their myopic world perspective.

Scott

August 20, 2013 at 04:26 PM

Get a law professor to chime in so we know the pros and cons; but more, so we know the ripple effects. There are always unintended consequences. Such a cursorially parochial apprach to a legal question doesn't do the question justice. Next.

Joe Carter

August 20, 2013 at 02:06 AM

Sharia is against the U.S. Constitution fundamentally because it is against freedom

Lee, with all due respect, you seem not to understand what my article is about. It may very well be true that "Sharia is against the U.S. Constitution fundamentally because it is against freedom." But that is the exact same claim made by secularists about the Bible.

Now I'm sure you'd say, and I'd completely agree, that the Bible and Sharia are completely different and should be treated differently. But the U.S. Constitution does not provide us that option. We can't say that we should allow Christian arbitration to be allowed but that Muslim arbitration (that does not violated civil/criminal law) be disallowed. What can happen, though, is that both be excluded from consideration.

I don't understand why so many Christians are willing to allow secularism to triumph for some imaginary fear that America will become a Sharia-controlled state.

Joe Carter

August 20, 2013 at 02:02 AM

I think the article is being misunderstood.

Thank you. Some of these comments are very frustrating. I can understand now why the people of Oklahoma voted for such an amendment. If what was being considered was anything like what they seem to think then of course I'd oppose it too!

Joe Carter

August 20, 2013 at 02:00 AM

Capitulation to moral equivalency is the only thing that comes immediately to mind about your piece here.

How is recognizing that the U.S. Constitution does not allow us to discriminate against specific religions a "capitulation to moral equivalency?"

You can live under a system that uses Sharia to judge you in a jurisdiction of your choice. As for me, I'll take a trial by jury of my peers any day - if it ever comes to that.

You seem to be missing the point that the only way Sharia is being considered is in the exact same way that Christian principles are now considered. I can't choose to be tried for criminal acts under an alternative legal system and neither can Muslims.

Joe Carter

August 20, 2013 at 01:56 AM

Why should country B legislate something by which country A uses to judge it's people?

It shouldn't. But no one (certainly not me) is saying they should. What is being argued is that people should be able to enter into voluntary contracts based on their religious beliefs.

Joe Carter

August 20, 2013 at 01:54 AM

Sharia also dictates that no churches may be built where no pre-Mohammedan church stood, how will you include this in your Sharia-allowing state, Joe?

You do realize that by 'Sharia-allowing state' you are referring to everywhere in the U.S., right? Sharia is already allowed to be considered in cases where both parties have agreed to
bind themselves in a contract based on Islamic religious principles. To my knowledge, this commonsensical legal recognition has not prevented churches from being built in America.

Joe Carter

August 20, 2013 at 01:50 AM

A state appeals court reversed his decision. Advocates of the ban in the U.S. have cited this case as an example of the need for the ban."

But that example shows exactly why such bans are not necessary. The job of a judge is to interpret the law, and sometimes they mess up in that task as this judge clearly did. But the appeals process corrected it because the precedent (e.g., religious practices can't trump criminal law) was already well established.

The U.S. Constitution makes it clear that the judicial system cannot single out specific religions just because we don't like their practices. Principles that are established have to be applied consistently to all religions. Some people may think it's better to give up having Christian beliefs and practices excluded also to prevent some imaginary threat that Sharia may impose. But I'm certainly not in that camp.

Somehow I don't see a Christian arbitration group and a Sharia court both protecting a woman's rights in a divorce.

You are probably right. But the women in Britain have an easy way to avoid such divorce settlements: do not enter into arbitration agreements based on Sharia law. The Sharia arbitration tribunals do not have the authority to grant a divorce. All they can do is have both parties come to an agreement that is then delivered to the secular courts for adjudication. If a woman does not think her right will be protected by the Sharia tribunal then she should not agree to enter into such arbitration.

Joe Carter

August 20, 2013 at 01:39 AM

I'm confused. I don't see how preventing Islamic religious law to be used as a basis for society is the same as the courts interpreting a church charter.

The OK law in question does not "prevent Islamic religious law to be used as a basis for society." I'm sure some people in that state believe that is the case, but that's due to dishonest propaganda by the amendment's supporters rather than legal reality. Islamic religious law cannot become the basis for U.S. society anymore than Christian or Jewish religious law could. The only way that Sharia is being recognized is in the exact same way that the secular courts recognize the legitimacy of such things as church charters.

If the goal is to have a society where everyone is judged by the same laws, how can there be a different basis for law for different people in society?

It is because that is the goal that we should allow differences to exist. The amendment in Oklahoma was saying that (a) if you want to make a contract with a fellow religious believer based on Christian, Jewish, Hindu, etc. principles and beliefs you could do so, as long as it did not violate civil or criminal law, and (b) Muslims would not be allowed that same opportunity.

The reason it was found unconstitutional was because it singles out Muslims for special scrutiny.

You can't go to court and say I believe only in this portion of the law or this totally different law and I want you, Judge, to base your judgement on the law that I believe and not the law on the books.

Exactly. And allowing Sharia law to be considered by the courts doesn't do that. Here's an example of how the current law works. Many Christians (including me) believe that our first recourse when dealing with a fellow believer is not to take our case to secular courts but to have the dispute resolved by our fellow Christians. Because of this belief, we may choose to enter into what's called "Christian arbitration" -- having Christian experts on law help us come to an agreement that is consonant with both legal and Biblical principles.

Now when I enter into that contract, I am doing so in good faith that I will accept the terms of agreement. One of the necessary functions of contract law is to hold people to their word. But what if I decide that I don't like the outcome and take it to the case to the civil courts? If religious principles can't be considered (whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc) then the courts would say that it didn't matter that I entered into a valid legal agreement by binding myself to the arbitration. They'd have to disregard previous facts based on nothing more than an anti-religious legal bias.

The rights of a person under Shariah law are very different than those under American law. What do you do when Shariah law conflicts with American law?

You go with American law. That point has never been in question. Unfortunately, though, i think many people seem to be confusing the concept that Sharia should be allowed to be considered in certain cases (similar to the way Christian principles are now considered) and that Sharia should be allowed to trump civil and criminal law. But it has been well established through a couple hundred years of legal history that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Other statutes and principles may be considered but they can't trump American law.

Joe Carter

August 20, 2013 at 01:21 AM

It's acceptance in any form is the first step toward undermining the U. S. Constitution and its freedom of religion principles which protect all religions.

Let me see if I understand what you are saying. You are claiming that violating the First Amendment to target a specific religious group *is not a threat* to the U. S. Constitution and its freedom of religion principles, but allowing people who have made a contract on terms based on Sharia law -- terms which do not conflict with U.S. criminal law -- is a huge threat?

Why is that the case?

Lee

August 20, 2013 at 01:12 AM

I was deeply disappointed in this article from the Gospel Coalition because I have come to expect much more thoughtful, well informed, and biblical reasoning. I agree with most of the comments made. And I think we are fools if we have such a naive understanding of Radical Islam and those who would attempt to put the whole world under Sharia Law. Sharia is against the U.S. Constitution fundamentally because it is against freedom. Tyranny and the Constitution have always been at odds with one another. And, Tyranny and biblical Christianity have been as well. We need a wake up call if this is the kind of muddled thinking coming from our Church leaders.

Mike Holmes

August 20, 2013 at 01:04 PM

Joe,

I think this was a great article. Keep it up.

Lothars Sohn

August 19, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Hello, I'm glad to see people from the Religious Right ceasing being hypocrytical, for the Shariah is nothing more than the laws of the
OT.

A step forward would be to recognize they are cultural thoughts of people on God, but NOT God's revealed will.


Lovely greetings from Germany
Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland

Lothars Sohn - Lothar's son
http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

Lowell

August 19, 2013 at 11:59 AM

This author understands neither Sharia law or the U.S. Constitution. There is nothing in Catholic, Baptist or Mormon church constitutions that threaten the authority of the U.S. Constitution. Sharia law, on the other hand, recognizes no other authoritative document. It's acceptance in any form is the first step toward undermining the U. S. Constitution and its freedom of religion principles which protect all religions. Sharia Law stomps on all other law. Please do more research.

Grayson Jones

August 19, 2013 at 09:53 PM

TGC should probably take this off....

JohnM

August 19, 2013 at 07:59 PM

I'm no expert on Sharia law but in my impression of it neither contract law nor church charters are quite what comes to mind. We might want to look at how it is implemented in places where it actually is implemented, without restraint or effective opposition.

I'm inclined to agree with Nate's comments above. For that matter I think I do prefer courts that are, at the very least, quite reluctant when it comes to stepping into church disputes. In our example above, if I supported the pastor initially I wouldn't after he took it to the civil magistrate. There is probably more than one bad option that is still better than having the nose of secular authority in our ecclesiastical business.

George S. Whitten, Sr.

August 19, 2013 at 07:16 PM

I think the article is being misunderstood. Elements of Sharia law that are contrary to the criminal and civil laws of this country (criminal and civil laws that apply to everyone) are already proscribed — just as Mormon practice of polygamy is now proscribed. The reason to oppose anti-Sharia legislation is that such legislation is clearly unconstitutional — a violation of the First Amendment. The article is merely pointing out that if we undercut the First Amendment to get at Muslims, we are also undercutting it for those who want to get at us. It is not advocating allowing Muslims to maintain their own criminal and civil system within this country as an exception to our criminal and civil laws. They can currently maintain their own system only in so far as that system complies with our law. We Christians do the same thing --- as for instance in matters of church discipline.

To further illustrate: Sharia law condones killing (murder) of anyone who disrespects the Prophet Mohamed or Islam. Such murders are already a crime in all states in this country. Anti-Sharia laws will not add anything to the illegality of such murders. No U. S. court can at present dismiss a prosecution for such murders.

This is a very different discussion from one in which the establishment of Muslim enclaves with their own criminal and civil laws that contradict American law is advocated.

Steve

August 19, 2013 at 04:49 PM

Joe, Joe, Joe. Capitulation to moral equivalency is the only thing that comes immediately to mind about your piece here. You really don't expect us to take you seriously, do you? If you do, then go ahead - You can live under a system that uses Sharia to judge you in a jurisdiction of your choice. As for me, I'll take a trial by jury of my peers any day - if it ever comes to that. Good luck.

chris

August 19, 2013 at 03:47 PM

In general I think only the laws of country A should be considered when making judgements in country A. Why should country B legislate something by which country A uses to judge it's people?

Dillon

August 19, 2013 at 03:17 PM

It does seem to me that the main thrust of this article--giving a second thought to Sharia law objections--while helpful in getting us to think more carefully about our rhetoric, is nevertheless open to a critical flaw.

The reason opposition to Sharia law ought to stand is *not* because we want to privatize all religion, or because, as the image for this article hints, we should not oppose "faith-based" laws. It's of course impossible to separate legality from morality, and the latter from faith claims.

In my view, the danger of Sharia laws is very particular--Sharia is a function of a broader religious system **that makes no distinction between Church and State.** The fear, which I find quite legitimate, is that to permit Sharia law would carry the unique burden of being intimately tied to a comprehensive socioreligious system. Christians, by converse, may defend or support certain laws from their Christian convictions, and yet insist that the Church not govern the state **as Church**. Neither orthodox Muslims, nor the Sharia law they promulgate, make such distinctions.

Ron Hongsermeier

August 19, 2013 at 02:13 PM

With all due respect, Lothars Sohn, read the OT and read the Koran, the Sunna and the Hadith and you will notice a _wide_ discrepancy between the former and the Muslim inventions.

Ron Hongsermeier

August 19, 2013 at 02:11 PM

There is some fuzzy thinking in this stance, since Sharia combines the social and religious _by_ force _and_ discriminates in a way prohibited by our constitution and the rule of law. Sharia dictates discrimination between true believers (Muslims), Dhimmis, Khaffar and women. Under Sharia women are only slightly better than Dhimmis (the subjugated and "protected" unbeliever) and Khaffar (the defiant unbeliever over against Islam's truth claims). Sharia dictates that the wife of a deceased Muslim gets no inheritance-- rather it goes to the children with each male child getting two proportionate fractions and each female child getting half as much. Where is equality under the law for such a system? Sharia also dictates that no churches may be built where no pre-Mohammedan church stood, how will you include this in your Sharia-allowing state, Joe? Islam assumes a dis-equity in _value_ of believers (Muslims) // everyone else: the unbelievers are then systematically discriminated against under Sharia. They have the right to pay the Dhimmi-tax, they have the right to be "protected" which means they don't have to serve in the military on the one hand, but on the other hand they have to walk on the other side of the street from the Muslims and may in no way defend their rights, honor or what the Germans call "Unversehrtheit", once a year the male Dhimmis are to be publicly humiliated under Sharia. Please explain.

Joshua

August 19, 2013 at 01:16 PM

It might seem that this is so cut and dry but I don't think so. Yes, perhaps in the case you mention some parts of Sharia law should be equivalent to a church's bylaws. But Sharia law is much further reaching than any church bylaws I know of. They govern business agreements, marital relationships, last will and testament, family and community relations, etc.

Here is the classic illustration of danger, "In June 2009, a family court judge in Hudson County, N.J., denied a restraining order to a woman who testified that her husband, a Muslim, had forced her to have non-consensual sex. Judge Joseph Charles Jr. said he did not believe the man "had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault" his wife because he was acting in a way that was "consistent with his practices." A state appeals court reversed his decision. Advocates of the ban in the U.S. have cited this case as an example of the need for the ban." -- BBC and Wikipedia

Also, the growth from applied laws to Sharia courts is also a danger. In Great Britain, according to The Telegraph, "five sharia courts are already operating mediation systems under the Arbitration Act, and that the Government allows Islamic tribunals to settle the custody and financial affairs of divorcing couples and send their judgements to civil courts for approval." (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/4631128/Archbishop-of-Canterbury-Society-is-coming-round-to-my-views-on-sharia.html ). Somehow I don't see a Christian arbitration group and a Sharia court both protecting a woman's rights in a divorce.

Nate

August 19, 2013 at 01:10 PM

I'm confused. I don't see how preventing Islamic religious law to be used as a basis for society is the same as the courts interpreting a church charter.
If the goal is to have a society where everyone is judged by the same laws, how can there be a different basis for law for different people in society?
You can't go to court and say I believe only in this portion of the law or this totally different law and I want you, Judge, to base your judgement on the law that I believe and not the law on the books.
The rights of a person under Shariah law are very different than those under American law. What do you do when Shariah law conflicts with American law?