Commentary: Sharia law bill fights a nonexistent problem

The citizens of South Carolina want to know what state lawmakers plan to do to close an $800 million budget deficit and bring new jobs to the state and improve our educational system, among other important issues.

So, of course, the Legislature is hard at work on a bill that would ... prevent the state's courts from enforcing Islamic law.

Actually, the bill would prevent enforcement of any foreign law. But the push is motivated by fears that Islamic Sharia law could supplant existing laws.

State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, who is the bill's main sponsor, said there is a need to clarify that cultural customs or foreign laws don't trump U.S. laws. He offers the example of a 1993 divorce case in Virginia, in which a court deemed a marriage legal based on Islamic tradition.

But that decision was overturned.

In a 1979 case, a South Carolina inmate appealed his contempt of court sentence, saying he shouldn't have to testify against a fellow Muslim because it would contradict Islam - and therefore his First Amendment rights. But the trial court and the state Supreme Court weren't buying that argument.

In fact, there is no indication that Sharia law has taken root anywhere in the state. At best, this would be a pre-emptive law to ensure against a problem that doesn't exist.

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