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VOL. 126 | NO. 38 | Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lawmakers' Bill Equates Shariah With Terrorism

AP

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NASHVILLE (AP) – Republican state lawmakers have proposed a bill that would make following the Islamic code known as Shariah law a felony punishable by 15 years in jail.

First Amendment Center scholar Charles Haynes told The Tennessean the bill is based on a complete misunderstanding of Shariah, which he described as a set of voluntary religious rules similar to Jewish religious law.

The bill, introduced last week by Rep. Judd Matheny of Tullahoma and Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, states that it exempts the peaceful practice of Islam, but it also labels any adherence to Shariah – which includes peaceful religious practices – as treasonous.

Matheny said he was given the bill by the conservative Tennessee Eagle Forum. Eagle Forum State President Bobbie Patray said it was drafted by David Yerushalmi, an Arizona-based attorney who runs the Society of Americans for National Existence, a nonprofit that claims following Shariah is treasonous.

Haynes called the proposed law "nonsense" as well as unnecessary, because people of all faiths have to follow secular law in the U.S.

"The government can't label religious laws as wrong or treasonous or evil," he said. "The government may not take sides in religion. It may not say what is a good religion or a bad religion."

Matheny said it is not his intent to criminalize religious practices such as preparations for prayer and dietary guidelines. He said he would consider amending the bill.

"I'm still researching it," he said. "My intent is to educate and to look at it."

Most anti-Shariah bills filed in other states recently focus on the court system. In Oklahoma, voters approved a referendum in November that banned state courts from using Shariah law in their rulings, but a federal judge barred its implementation pending the result of a lawsuit claiming the law is unconstitutional.

Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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