In this week's column, Ben and I tackle Kansas' new law banning sharia law. My take:
Sam Brownback and Kansas Republicans are hypocrites, through and through. In 2008, then-U.S. Sen. Brownback introduced a resolution in the Senate that designated the first weekend of May as "Ten Commandments Weekend." A few years before that, Brownback was out front urging that the Pledge of Allegiance retain its mention of "one nation under God," saying: "There is nothing more American than the Pledge of Allegiance and an acknowledgement of God is at the heart of our founding principles and is our nation's motto." The examples don't end there. Along with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Brownback has been one of America's most aggressive and unapologetic politicians in advocating for religion's role in America's public and governmental life. Islam is the exception to this rule. Brownback and Kansas Republicans are vigorous defenders of the separation of church and state only when non-Christians are involved. Supporters of the law point to places like Europe, where "hate speech" codes can make it illegal -- or, at least, inadvisable -- to criticize Islam. "That could happen here!" they cry, but no, it probably couldn't: Europe doesn't have America's First Amendment traditions or law that vigorously defend freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The bill's supporters never showed that Islamic law actually was distorting or affecting Kansas jurisprudence. They never had evidence on their side, only demagoguery and fear. So the law is a solution in search of a problem -- the kind of thing conservatives disdain, unless Muslims are involved. All the law really does, then, is signal to the state's Muslims that they are second-class citizens. Kansas has a proud civil rights history. It fought to be a free state before the Civil War; it was where the Brown v. Board of Education ruling delivered the first stunning blow against desegregation. The new law betrays that heritage. But it does highlight Sam Brownback's hypocrisy.Ben, on the other hand, warns of the dangers of "creeping sharia":
Examples of "creeping Shariah" abound. A few years ago, Muslim cabbies in Minneapolis refused to pick up passengers carrying alcohol or dogs, even service dogs for the disabled. Islamic law says dogs and booze are unclean and forbidden, anti-discrimination laws notwithstanding. A judge in New Jersey in 2010 accepted a Muslim man's defense against sexual assault, saying his supposed religious beliefs mitigated his crime. (That ruling was later overturned.)The second example shows how weak the "threat" is: A bad court decision was overturned, after all. And the former example is very interesting. Conservatives fight all the time for pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control in the name of "religious freedom." I'm not sure how it's different from cabbies refusing to carry alcohol, except for simple chauvinism. Which is, really, what the Kansas' new law is all about.