It is apparently not enough that our legislators in Washington, D.C., have held hearings on terrorism focusing only on our Muslim brethren. Now Rep. Don Wells, R-Cabool, wants to attack Islam by proposing yet another unnecessary and possibly federally unconstitutional amendment to Missouri’s constitution. And Rep. John Cauthorn, R-Mexico, who represents a portion of eastern Columbia and Boone County, has joined Wells’ team.
Their problem? Sharia law. Really?
This is an example of fear mongering — attacking an issue based on fear and misunderstanding, using propaganda and no facts — at its best.
House Joint Resolution 31, is specifically written to prohibit Missouri courts from using Sharia or international law in their deliberation.
A search of Missouri courts and the State Courts Administrator website shows no incident in which Sharia law has been considered in Missouri courts. The state Supreme Court verified this fact.
I called Wells’ office to seek his reasoning for wanting this action, especially after a similar amendment in Oklahoma has been put on hold by the U.S. District Court. He has not returned these calls. Rep. Cauthorn did tell me he was not familiar with the resolution. So why did he sign as a co-sponsor?
In Muneer Awad v. Paul Ziriax, et al. (Nov. 2010), the Federal Western District Court of Oklahoma was asked if the specific exclusion of Sharia law in a state constitutional amendment might conflict with the U.S. Constitution. What the court must decide is this: If the rule of the majority is in conflict with the Bill of Rights, can the will of the people be wrong?
The short answer, at least for now: Yes, there is a conflict, and the people can be mistaken. In such cases, federal laws take precedence. Even with the 2010 approval by more than 70 percent of voting Oklahoma residents, the amendment to the state constitution appears to violate the letter and intent of the First Amendment's establishment clause, as well as Oklahoma’s own Bill of Rights.
If the U.S. District Court’s decision in Awad v. Ziriax holds, HJR 31 will meet the same fate. Awad is now in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, receiving opening written briefs.
I have already suggested Reps. Mike McGee and Jay Barnes are grandstanding for votes by supporting proposed Missouri constitutional amendments to permit Christian prayer in public places, though there is no prohibition in law. The government is only prohibited from sanctioning such prayer.
With the addition of Wells’ bill, these proposed amendments, all needing public vote, become more worrisome. They are designed to instill fear, loathing and distrust in those of the Muslim faith.
These proposals are designed as a direct assault on the Constitution, the First Amendment and our founders’ concept that temporal and sectarian laws should remain separate but equal partners. I firmly believe that the men and women supporting these proposed resolutions in Jefferson City remain constitutionally illiterate.
Rep. Cauthorn needs to withdraw his support of HJR 31. The threat is not Sharia law, but attempts to circumvent the United States and Missouri constitutions and the founding principles of our government.
Reps. Kelly, Quill, Still and Webber must argue vehemently the unconstitutionality of HJR 31 and stop it before Missouri is embarrassed in the eyes of the world.
David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.