Ever since I witnessed State Rep. Paul Curtman (R-105) (then just Citizen Paul Curtman) strutting his constitutional defender stuff at a constituent meeting with Claire McCaskill’s staff early in 2009, I’ve taken an interest in his charmingly comic tendency towards bombast and self-glorification, usually centering on discredited right-wing claims about the Constitution. Consequently, I’ve been working on and off on a post dealing with some of the tricky constitutional issues involved in his recent list of legislative priorities for the current session.
One of those priorities, though, did not merit much effort; it was pretty easy to dismiss his anti-Sharia bill out-of-hand, although it’s difficult to say if that will be the case in the lege given some of their recent antics. I wrote a short paragraph:
Curtman’s ongoing effort to combat the nonexistent threat of Sharia law – disguised as a quest to ban foreign law from Missouri Courts – has garnered the most attention. Such a law would not only incorrectly define Sharia as foreign rather than religious law, institutionalize religious and ethnic bigotry, and potentially drive away foreign companies that might otherwise do business in Missouri, but would arguably be in violation of the 1st amendment’s freedom of religion clause. Additionally, the American Constitution Society (ACS) points out that:
…the domestic law of the United States recognizes law of nations. […] Legislation that forbids courts from considering international or foreign law raise serious questions about the separation of powers and the independence of courts and judges […] If supporters of these measures genuinely wish to protect the Constitution, they would do well to trust the framers’ respect for international law and religious freedom …
It would be interesting to see Curtman put real, careful arguments such as those made by the ACS into his constitutional pipe and smoke them. The result couldn’t be worse than whatever pseudo-constitutional blend he’s smoking right now.
Before I could finish my foray into Curtman’s constitutional misreadings, however, the courts spoke, issuing a ruling that should, if we could only rely on the intelligence of our legislators, put finis to anti-Sharia initiatives in Missouri. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Oklahoma’s recently passed anti-Sharia law doesn’t meet constitutional muster:
Given the lack of evidence of any concrete problem, any harm Appellants seek to remedy with the proposed amendment is speculative at best and cannot support a compelling interest.15 “To sacrifice First Amendment protections for so speculative a gain is not warranted . . . .” Columbia Broad. Sys., Inc. v. Democratic Nat’l Co., 412 U.S. 94, 127 (1973).
Anti-Sharia legislation introduced by Curtman last year was similar to the Oklahoma law which, I assume, is the case with the bill he is pushing this session. Consequently, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the 10th Circuit ruling has implications for Curtman’s Missouri effort. Oklahoma may indeed decide to take this to the Supreme Court, but as Think Progress‘ Scott Keyes’ notes:
Today’s decision is a seminal moment in the ongoing battle against Islamophobia. As anti-Muslim individuals continue to push Sharia hysteria in other states, many legislators may think twice before passing a law deemed unconstitutional by the 10th Circuit.
The question is whether or not Missouri legislators will have the will to think twice. They should; they certainly have more important things to worry about than placating the anti-Sharia hysteria of an ignorant and bigoted minority – like maybe finally getting serious about a $5 million deficit that is threatening a state already ranked last or near last in almost every measure of quality of life.