A long list of S.C. lawmakers plan to send a message to Palmetto State courts: Don't apply foreign laws here.
A proposed law, which a House panel will consider later this month, is part of a growing movement in legislatures around the country.
Twenty other states are considering similar measures to ban judges from applying the laws of others nations, particularly in custody and marriage cases. Three states Tennessee, Louisiana and Arizona already have added the laws to their books. Oklahoma put it in its state Constitution in 2010, a move now being challenged in federal court.
Proponents say the S.C. measure will ensure only U.S. and S.C. laws are applied in Palmetto State courtrooms, and foreign laws do not trump constitutional rights guaranteed to Americans.
Opponents say the proposal addresses a nonexistent issue and, while not specifically naming Islamic Sharia law, smacks of anti-Islamic sentiment. They say such bills target the practice of Sharia, a wide-ranging group of Islamic religious codes and customs that, in some countries, are enforced as law.
While Sharia law provides followers of Islam guidelines on everything from crime to politics to hygiene and food, many Muslims also disagree on its interpretation.
State Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, the bills sponsor, said she introduced the proposal after speaking with several family court judges around the state about problems with child-custody cases.
I asked them if they had issues with custody cases decided outside of the country. They all said Yes, Nanney said, adding one judge told her of a custody case brought before him that originally had been handled in Venezuela. The judge, who Nanney declined to name, said he struggled to find common ground between S.C. and Venezuelan laws, and how to apply them.
It would simplify things to say, Were in a South Carolina court, and lets use South Carolina law. Its meant to help our judges not to be pushed and pressured and prodded to enforce other countries laws, Nanney said.
Nanney said her bill does not target Sharia law or any other specific foreign code or law. Her proposal has 27 House co-sponsors, including House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington, and 26 other Republicans, who control the General Assembly.
A similar bill was introduced in the Senate last year by another Greenville Republican, state Sen. Mike Fair. It failed to clear the subcommittee level.
Subcommittee members sent a letter to the states family court judges to gauge whether Sharia or other foreign laws were impacting S.C. custody and divorce cases.
We heard no indication from any of the judges that there was a problem, said state Sen Larry Martin, R-Pickens.
Liberal groups, including the S.C. Progressive Network, say the proposal is a waste of legislative time.
Im much more concerned with laws being imposed by aliens from the Planet Oz, said Brett Bursey, the groups director. A stealth-alien invasion of the minds of our legislators is the most plausible explanation for their obsession with fixing things that arent broken.
At least one national group, the New Jersey-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, which works to promote understanding of Islam, says the intent of the state proposals is devious.