Two Republican legislators want to make sure Florida courts aren't tainted by what one of them calls foreign "shenanigans": Muslim sharia or legal codes from other nations.
Neither Sen. Alan Hays nor Rep. Larry Metz, though, could name a Florida case where international law or Islamic law has caused a problem in a state court. They said they weren't targeting sharia, a body of law primarily based on the Koran and the Hadith, the sayings of Islam's founder, Mohammed.
One reason sharia isn't mentioned in the bill is due to the U.S. Constitution's ban on religious discrimination or favoritism. Citing the First Amendment, a federal judge recently blocked a voter-approved Oklahoma law targeting sharia.
The legislation, which resembles efforts in a dozen other states where Islamic law is under scrutiny, was copied almost word-for-word from the "model legislation" posted on the website of a group called the American Public Policy Alliance.
"American Laws for American Courts was crafted to protect American citizens' constitutional rights against the infiltration and incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines, especially Islamic Sharia Law," the group's website says.
Hays, R-Umatilla, said he just wants to protect the rights of Floridians.
"I filed a bill that says in the courts of Florida the laws of no other country can be used to influence the decisions of Florida," Hays said. "If it's sharia law or any other law — I don't care what law it is — if it's not a Florida law and if it's some foreign law, it doesn't belong in our courts."
Metz was vague on specifics and tried to avoid talking about them. When asked for examples, he said he had them in his office, but said a reporter would have to make an appointment with him another day to go over it all. That's right, he wants to change Florida statute, but can't provide one example off the top of his head to justify it all. Welcome to dealing with a part-time Legislature.