By Kalia Abiade
[UPDATE: 05/03/13] Florida Senate Bill 58, “Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases,” has officially died on the Senate floor and will not become law this year. The measure needed two-thirds support on a procedural vote, which it missed by one senator. The bill got only 25 of the 26 votes needed yesterday to move on for a full vote. The state’s legislative session ends today
[ORIGINAL POST] A Florida Senate bill written with the intent of banning state courts from recognizing Sharia law is scheduled for debate and a full vote today or tomorrow.
Senate Bill 58 had been held up in the Senate Rules Committee since early April, and it was moved onto the floor in a last-minute maneuver as the session comes to a close this week. A companion bill, HB 351, sailed through the state House last month. If the Senate approves this measure, Florida would join six other states — Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee — that have enacted similar laws.
While Florida’s Republican Senate leadership is confident they have enough votes to approve this measure — and Gov. Rick Scott has pledged to sign it — there is still time to put pressure on lawmakers to ensure SB 58 does not pass. Floridians and those who represent them must recognize that this bill is unnecessary legislation that confuses and divides.
The threat of “infiltration and incursion of foreign laws” is a perceived problem that doesn’t exist, and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Alan Hays, admits that. Hays has likened Sharia law to a “dreadful disease” and says his bill would serve as a vaccination against it.
SB 58 has language nearly identical to the American Laws for American Courts (ALAC) model legislation used in the six states that have passed similar measures and in dozens of other states that have tried. The original ALAC language was written by anti-Muslim lawyer and activist David Yerushalmi.
Yerushalmi is the founder of the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE) and senior counsel to Frank Gaffney‘s Center for Security Policy. He has said in the past that personal adherence to Islam should be punishable by prison sentences, and he’s called for the depoSrtation of all non-Muslim citizens.
He said, “If this thing passed in every state without any friction, it would not have served its purpose. The purpose was heuristic — to get people asking this question, ‘What is Sharia?’ ”
Florida is familiar territory to anti-Muslim activists, many of whom have come out in support of SB 58. Gainesville-based Terry Jones, who infamously proposed and staged Qur’an burnings in front of his church in 2010 and 2011, has spoken out in favor of this bill. His group plans to burn more Qur’ans later this year to “send Islam a very clear warning that they will not get their foothold in the American Constitution.”
SB 58 is a solution looking for a problem. The point of the bill is not to inoculate the state from harmful foreign or religious laws; the federal and state constitutions already do that. Instead the bill, if passed, is more likely to fortify bias and justify prejudice against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim. It would also infringe on the rights of people of many other faiths.
With each state that passes a new ALAC measure, the more emboldened the anti-Muslim movement becomes. The passage of this bill in Florida could serve as a green light for other states to attempt similar discriminatory measures.
Join the campaign today to stem the tide of bigotry in Florida and across the nation. Tell Florida senators to vote “No” on SB 58.
Twitter: Use the hashtag #stophate58 to urge Florida senators to oppose SB 58. Click here for sample tweets.
Facebook: Share a status on Facebook to encourage people to speak out against SB 58 and to urge Florida senators to vote “No” on SB 58.