Friday, April 6, 2012

House Bill 2029: "American Laws for American Courts": What's Wrong?

Pennsylvania Representative RoseMarie Swanger of the 102nd District (R-Lebanon) is urging the passage of the“American Law for American Courts”, or ALAC, bill by the House Judiciary Committee. According to Swanger,
“there seems to be a growing sense of disregard for the American concept of law and the United States Constitution in general... It’s time for Pennsylvania to take a stand on how the law will be applied in our courts.” 
House Bill 2029, Swanger’s legislation, is meant to prevent judges in the Commonwealth from considering foreign law when rendering their verdicts.

However, HB 2029 isn't Swanger's bill. In fact, it is the product of a movement that began six years ago in the law office of David Yerushalmi, a 56-year-old Hasidic Jew with a record of controversial statements about race, immigration, Islam, and Shariah Law. Even on his law office website's "About Us" section, he indulges himself as an "expert on Islamic law":
"David Yerushalmi is today considered an expert on Islamic law and its intersection with Islamic terrorism and national security. In this capacity, he has published widely on the subject including the principle critical scholarship on sharia-compliant finance published in the Utah Law Review (2008, Issue 3). Mr. Yerushalmi also designed and co-authored a ground-breaking peer-reviewed empirical investigation on sharia-adherence and the promotion of violent, jihadist literature in U.S. mosques published initially in the Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2011) and then republished in a more detailed format in Perspectives on Terrorism, the journal of the prestigious Terrorism Research Initiative. This research and scholarship on sharia was earlier the focus of a 2008 monograph published by the McCormick Foundation and the Center for Security Policy entitled, “Shariah, Law and ‘Financial Jihad’: How Should America Respond?”"

The monograph published by the McCormick Foundation features a photo of a Trojan horse, which throughout the article is used as a moniker for Islamic law and finance. In fact, the concept of the Trojan horse should be used to describe Yerushalmi's criticisms on Islamic law: as an instrument for legitimizing and propagating the ban of the entire religion of Islam. Even ACT! for America, a leading organization promoting the banning of Islam, has promoted Yerushalmi's model legislation, which can be found on the American Public Policy Association's (APPA) website. On ACT! for America's website, they label one of their recent successes as:
"Winning the passage of “American Laws for American Courts” in Tennessee and Arizona. This law prohibits state courts from applying foreign law, and by implication sharia law, in certain areas of law, such as family law."
What is troubling here isn't the promotion of American law and constitutionality - in fact, everyone should support that. What is troubling is the fact that there is a blatant target against Islam.

In an interview with Comcast Newscasters, when asked if House Bill 2029 targets Shariah law, Rep. Swanger answers:
"Well, it doesn't target Shariah law... Shariah law is an example of some of the law that has infiltrated into our court system but I'm not targeting Shariah law because... there are all sorts of foreign laws that could infiltrate so you know it is not meant to be an attack on just Shariah law - certainly not."
However, contrary to Swanger's response, Shariah law and Islam are the primary targets of this bill. It may not be Rep. Swanger's intention to simply impose restrictions on Islamic law in American courts, but it is the intention of the writer of the model, David Yerushalmi. Amara S. Chaudhry, the Civil Rights Director for the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), comments on why the bill isn't simply expressing concern with American laws in American courts:
"The history of HB 2029 demonstrates an intent to effectuate an official governmental disapproval of the Islamic faith. The strongest evidence that HB 2029 targets the Islamic faith is a June 14, 2011, co-sponsorship memorandum titled "American and Pennsylvania Laws for Pennsylvania Courts — Shariah Law." The mere title of this memorandum reveals the bill's primary purpose of targeting "Shariah law" — not all foreign laws."
In response to those being offended by House Bill 2029, Robert Spencer of "" writes:
"Being offended is default mode for Islamic supremacists, and here it is the same old story: Americans want to outlaw the elements of Sharia that interfere with Constitutionally protected freedoms, not Islam as an individual religious practice, but in response, Islamic supremacists claim that Muslim religious freedom will be infringed upon."
Robert Spencer brings up a valid point that Americans want to outlaw the elements of Sharia that interfere with constitutionally protected freedoms and not Islam as a faith- and though he may be right in that it is the general American sentiment to protect American freedoms and liberty first, he is wrong in assuming House Bill 2029 intends to do that. If HB 2029 was intended to simply outlaw elements of Sharia that interfere, then perhaps such controversy wouldn't exist. However, HB 2029, targets Sharia Law, moreover - the Islamic faith.

An interesting comment left by a reader "AynRandGirl" on Spencer's blog states:
I'm confused. Muslims keep telling me that they don't want to bring Sharia law to the US. So why are they complaining when we want to outlaw something they have no intention of bringing here?
Shariah law is obviously not a simple concept, and interpreted in hundreds of different ways. It's multifaceted views differing between sects of Islam, furthermore between scholars, furthermore between individuals and so on - exemplifies why there has been a lack of definition of what it is, what it entails, and how it is meant to be interpreted. Shariah left the Islamic religious sphere and entered the American political realm which rightfully questioned it. The problem is, Shariah isn't a "Constitution". It is not written by Founding Fathers - it is derived from the religious text, the Qur'an. Shariah isn't a law. It isn't a bill drafted by a representative. It is a facet of a religion. Countries that claim to have adopted "Sharia law" in their government have converted Sharia into a facet of politics. The comment above on Spencer's blog shares a common sentiment among many - the apparent contradiction of Muslims who oppose foreign interpretation of Shariah law, but at the same time oppose outlawing Shariah in the U.S. However, there is no contradiction. HB 2029 legislates against Shariah at both the political realm and religious sphere. Muslims do not want to bring politically-adapted Shariah into the U.S., but they also do not want to ban Shariah as an Islamic practice. Shariah as an  Islamic practice entails how a Muslim should be buried, how his/her will should be written - banning its religious existence in American courts would be banning a facet of the faith of Islam.

Yerushalmi has influenced recent public attacks on Shariah. His financed reports, lawsuits against the government, and "ALAC" model legislation have swept the country with the effect of propagating Shariah as a threat to American liberty. Yerushalmi’s views have been echoed by Republicans Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann, who signed a pledge to reject Islamic law, relating it to totalitarianism.

Representative RoseMarie Swanger may genuinely be attempting to promote American constitutionality, but her intent has been plagued by Yerushalmi's initial intent of targeting Shariah. If indeed the American Laws for American Courts legislation actually, as the APPA states, "seeks to ensure that American Muslim families have the same constitutional protections and liberties as other Americans", the law should not simply restrict the consideration of religious beliefs, but instead ensure that Constitutional rights are adhered to first.

Yes: American constitutional rights must be preserved in order to ensure American values of liberty and freedom, and state legislatures have a crucial role to play in preserving those constitutional rights. However, House Bill 2029 implies a underlying target against religious beliefs that cannot be claimed as an attempt to preserve the Constitution.

The problem is not the intention of promoting Constitutional rights, the problem is the discriminating target of religion. Whether the religion being targeted is Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity - it is simply not the role of Pennsylvania legislature to marginalize religious beliefs and traditions. The United States welcomes all religious heritages, and Americans should have full confidence in the U.S. Constitution - written by the people, of the people, for the people - and the laws of the state of Pennsylvania.

We should not have to entertain the concern that foreign or religious law offers a threat to the law of the Land, as we are confident that our Constitutional rights come first.

And with all due consideration, injustices within the American court system do exist, be it through the consideration of foreign law or be it through any other judicial error. However, HB 2029 is not eliminating any of these injustices, but instead, harboring the creation of more.

Essentially, not allowing House Bill 2029: "American Laws for American Courts" to be passed will establish neither an accomplishment nor defeat, it will simply serve as an example that Pennsylvania has, in its wisdom, decided to respect freedoms, respect religions, and continue to trust the Constitution.



  1. Very well written and researched. My only question is what will happen if the law is passed in PA, what impact will it really have in a court case?

  2. stop wasting your time nothing is happening

  3. I would expect no less fro a Musim living in a hostile land (your words)-good work in clarifying your position.
    Freedom of Speech IS a wonderful thing.

    1. Thank you, and yes, it is. Yet, when have I ever said I'm living in a "hostile land"? Just want to clarify.

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The ICCPR recognizes the right to freedom of speech as "the right to hold opinions without interference." You may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.