Will anti-Sharia law initiatives be in future election cycles what anti-gay marriage initiatives were before? That is, a cultural wedge issue the GOP uses to ensure that hard-core conservatives enthusiastically flock to the polls?
If so, then Oklahoma is the proverbial canary in the coal mine for this type of initiative. One of 11 ballot initiatives in the state this November, State Question 755, better known as the "Save Our State" constitutional amendment, would prevent courts from using international or Sharia law. The question made it to the ballot by passing the state Senate 41-2 and the House 82-10. In addition to potentially rallying the conservative base to the polls, the initiative, which bans something that is nearly impossible statutorily, is worth watching because the GOP may employ it in swing states two years down the line.
At the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. in September, Newt Gingrich positioned himself perhaps to the right of Sarah Palin in a potential bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination by saying, "I am opposed to any efforts to impose Sharia in the United States, and we should have a federal law that says under no circumstances in any jurisdiction in the United States will Sharia [law] be used in any court to apply to any judgment made about American law."
Gingrich claimed that Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan seemed to be "confused" on this topic, and that "no judge" should "remain in office who tries to use Sharia law to interpret the United States Constitution." Gingrich received thunderous applause and ensured that his comments would play on cable television, helping his stature as a potential presidential candidate.
Gingrich's sentiment is shared by Oklahoma State Rep. Rex Duncan, the primary author of this initiative. Duncan, a Republican, has told local papers that he hopes other states will follow suit. Citing European countries in which Sharia law, in his opinion, is becoming "entrenched," he sees this initiative as a preemptive strike against Islamic law coming to America.
Those opposed to the ballot initiative believe it is a preemptive strike against a non-threat. They call the law xenophobic. They even cite the fact that even the amendment's sponsors and strongest supporters cannot statutorily cite a case in which Oklahoma courts have applied Sharia law in any ruling. Yet supporters of the amendment, borrowing George W. Bush's "with us or against us" formulation, speciously claim that those who don't support the amendment are actually for Sharia law.
If this initiative over-performs in November, look for a potential wave of "preemptive strikes" against Sharia law in the years ahead.