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South Dakota Governor Signs Unconstitutional Anti-Muslim Bill

15 March 2012 ThinkProgress 35 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R-SD)

Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R-SD)

By Ian Millhiser

Yesterday, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) signed an unconstitutional law that purports to target courts applying religious law, but which is almost certainly part of a broader push by Islamophobic advocates to fight the imaginary problem of courts substituting Islamic law for American law. The brief bill Daugaard signed provides simply that “[n]o court, administrative agency, or other governmental agency may enforce any provisions of any religious code.”

Although this bill does not specifically call out any particular religion for ill treatment, it violates the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution. As the Supreme Court explained in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah, “the protections of the Free Exercise Clause pertain if the law at issue discriminates against some or all religious beliefs or regulates or prohibits conduct because it is undertaken for religious reasons.”

While it is uncommon for American courts to apply religious law, it is not unheard of. Private parties sometimes enter into contracts where they agree to resolve their disputes under something other than U.S. law, and individuals sometimes write wills devising their property according to the tenets of their faith. Under the bill Daugaard signed, however, courts will be allowed to enforce contracts requiring disputes to be resolved under French law or ancient Roman law or under the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons second edition rules, but they won’t be allowed to enforce contracts requiring disputes to be resolved under the requirements of someone’s religious beliefs. This is discrimination “against some or all religious beliefs,” and is therefore unconstitutional.

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35 Comments »

  1. This could end up being a boon to the rest of us who are being plagued by the Christian churches to pass laws that restrict the right of women!

  2. Huh? Can someone explain to me why this is a bad thing? It seems like quite a good thing, in my opinion.

  3. More who conned their way into elected office!!

  4. One word:Paranoia.

  5. Hope this comes back to Bite Them in the ASS! Most of these Bigoted Laws Do!!! He looks like the Klan Members I remember from when I was a kid…

  6. OMG another GOP clown gov.

  7. Dog whistle alert! Sigh.

  8. Ah, the GOP – protecting Americans from things that don’t exist!

  9. Ironically they behave like Mullahs.

  10. radicalized fanatics are the same everywhere, stupid.

  11. One more reason why I will never go back to the state where I was born and raised. The batshit crazy wing of the GOP has been firmly in control since the EVIL Bill Janklow ascended to power.

  12. So, does this mean that Christian Scientists and Jehovah’s Witnesses can no longer count on court support when they deny medical treatment to their children?

  13. No religion fits all.

  14. This is just a red herring to distract from the courts substituting Christian law for American law.

  15. Well this works two ways. His person may be afraid that islamic law will become the law of the land, but how many non christians in this country are expected to live under christian law? I see no separation of church and state in either case. And I dont see the president doing anything to solidify the separation. Every election, religion becomes a focal point of the eligilibility of the canidates. Face it, we will never have 100% separation of church/state, but I applaud anyone that tries to keep another religious encroachment out of the legal system. I just hope when they deal with the Islamic issue, they are willing to start cleaning house of Christian/Jewish/Buddhist/etc prejudices.

  16. Dont get me wrong, I would love to see something like this introduced for christian, judiasm, and other religions. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. But I am concerned that this redneck is highly prejudiced to his way of thinking and would freak at the prospect of having someone introduce the same sort of legislation to keep HIS religion out of law.

  17. I think the GOP needs to start a panic over the deathstar next at least then they would be semi-amusing :)

  18. Does it also prohibit Talmudic law? How about Levitican law?

  19. But the AD&D 2d rules ARE my religious beliefs!

  20. Alan, it prohibits all religious law. Although same sex marriage is illegal in SD and that prohibition is based on religious code if anything is. Perhaps we can use this law against him on that issue.

  21. I think mostly American law should come first in some cases. religious laws can come into play, but only under certain situations.

  22. What is really crazy is – the republican religious right are trying to push their religious laws on the nation!

  23. If its unconstitutional it will not be upheld…

  24. Good don’t apply ANY religious law, just like they aren’t suppose to. Good Gov do your damn job. Forget that ‘the bible’ says against abortion, gay marriage, etc, this is a secular nation, good on you, stand up for the First Amendment.

  25. Well I support it. Religions are composed of groups of people that most normally take in entire families. A religious solution may seem voluntary but the social pressure to comply in conjunctions with the threat of religious or social sanctions for refusing to enter into or follow a religious decision and be devastating for an individual. It is best that these matters be resolved in civil court using laws approved by our legislative system.

  26. That governor looks inbred. Religion in this country has become a curse. Evangelicals are weaklings who rely on some invisible force rather than themselves.

  27. No law but the use of the Constitution and Bill Of Rights here in the USA.

  28. This group is getting way too anti American for my taste.

  29. Chris, u have been way too anti muslim for everybody’s taste. (ps. chris is a reg. troll on this page).

  30. There’s nothing Unconstitutional about it. Live by our laws or gtfo

  31. Rachel
    Learn to be nice or gtfo.
    Seriously like why? It’s unconstitutional because our first amendment says freedom of religion. And sure Islam says to follow the law of the land but if they can try to get right Sharia why not? Its only them following it. You dont have to dye your hair black, RacheL, we promise you won’t catch this ‘disease’ you hate so much.

  32. Lama lol. US isn’t a theocracy. We are ruled by the bill of rights and our own laws. Not a Bible, not a Koran.

  33. And I wouldn’t need to dye my hair.

  34. Lama here is my problem with it. We have religions in the United States that promote shunning, which is when everyone including family stops talking to that person in order to get them back into line. Some practice excommunication which also separate them from family members. These can be incurred for many reasons including refusal to follow religious judgments made by elders. Any group of people including Muslims can be intimidated into entering an agreement or subjecting themselves to a religious judgment they do not agree with due to the immense pressure that can be exerted upon that individual. Thus I want to stick to our secular system of laws and judgments as the represent the view of society in general and are usually neutral in nature.

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