The Kansas State Senate [official website] approved a bill [HB 2087, PDF] on Friday that forbids the use of foreign or religious law in Kansas courts. The bill both prohibits state judges from using foreign law to adjudicate disputes and makes contracts that purport to be governed by foreign or religious law unenforceable. Senator Ty Masterson [official profile] defended the bill against charges that it specifically targeted Muslims and Sharia, saying that the bill respects religious freedom and does not promote intolerance. However, Senate Judiciary Chairman Tim Owens [official profile] voiced opposition to the bill, saying that the bill targets Shariah without explicitly mentioning it. Owens expressed particular concern that the bill would make Kansas appear intolerant toward people of faiths other than Christianity. The bill passed the Senate by a 33-3 vote. Earlier in the week, the Kansas House of Representatives [official website] approved the bill by a 120-0 vote. The bill will now go to Governor Sam Brownback [official profile], who has not indicated whether he will sign or veto the bill.
State laws banning the use of foreign or religious law have been the subject of controversy recently. In March, the Florida House of Representatives [official website] approved a bill [JURIST report] outlawing the use of religious and foreign law in state courts. Similar legislation has been passed in Louisiana, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Oklahoma's bill, which specifically mentions outlawing Sharia, is currently being blocked [JURIST report] until its constitutionality can be reviewed. That bill was passed by voters [JURIST report] in November 2010. In February, JURIST guest columnist Abed Awad proclaimed [JURIST op-ed] that the hysteria surrounding the use of Sharia is misguided.