The Michigan legislature was considering an “anti-Sharia” law. Interestingly, the Catholic bishops of Michigan opposed the law. The bill prohibits the application of foreign law in Michigan, and is aimed and prohibiting the use of Sharia law in Muslim communities. The bishops are worried that the law would impact the application of Catholic canon law, which predates U.S. civil laws and is essential to the function of the Church.
Citizens concerned about religious freedom should think carefully about anti-Sharia laws. University of St. Thomas law professor Robert Vischer wrote a thoughtful piece about the dangers of such laws in First Things in March. He said,
When state legislators across the country line up behind such bills, the aim is not primarily legal reform—it is political grandstanding aimed at reassuring nervous constituents that Sharia law will be kept out of our courts. This serves only to fan the flames of religious intolerance while nurturing public acceptance of the notion that the religious commitments of our citizens have no place in our courts.
Anti-Sharia activists passed such an amendment in Oklahoma. It was aimed narrowly at Muslims and was thrown out by the courts. As a result, anti-Sharia activists are aiming more broadly, at all religious legal systems. Laws such as that proposed in Michigan are a threat to all religions, and would deny to use of any system of religious law, and the application of that law in U.S. courts. As Vischer notes,
Though popular with secularists and religious conservatives, anti-Sharia legislation does not defend against theocracy but calls into question our society’s fundamental commitments to meaningful religious liberty and meaningful access to the courts. These commitments have been relied on by generations of Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, and Jews, and to try to remove them for Muslims both is unjust to Muslims and sets a dangerous precedent for other religious groups.