A measure barring the use of foreign laws in Missouri courts is being filed in the state legislature for the upcoming session. Under the bill, any court ruling based on a foreign law would be unenforceable.
House Republican Bill Kidd of Independence says the proposal is not similar to bans on Shariah Law that some states have enacted.
“I’m trying not to take it into that realm of this is an anti-Sharia or anti-Muslim deal,” said Kidd. “I just wanted to make it basic that it’s as simple as, if you’re in the United States, use American laws in American courts. And I’m not trying to take into an issue of ‘This is a Sharia, this is an anti-Muslim thing. It’s not.”
A number of states adopted Sharia law bans after a New Jersey judge in 2009 determined a Muslim man had not sexually assaulted his wife because he was acting consistent with his practices. In that case, a state appeals court reversed the judge’s decision to deny the woman a restraining order.
Voters in neighboring Oklahoma overwhelmingly approved an anti-Sharia law in 2010, which was extended by its legislature to include all foreign laws in 2011. The statute was ultimately overturned by federal courts as unconstitutional.
Missouri first passed a measure banning foreign law in 2013, but Democratic Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the bill, saying it could negatively impact the ability of families to adopt kids from abroad.
The proposal was contentious at the time, with some lawmakers saying it was part of an anti-Muslim movement. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the bill’s sponsor in 2013, Republican Senator Brian Nieves of Washington, angrily disputed the characterization, and said the bill had been mischaracterized by critics and the media.
Representative Kidd says his proposal for the 2018 session is more of a reaction to foreign laws creeping into courts across the Atlantic Ocean.
“Well, I think we see that in the European theater right now, is that that’s becoming more and more of an issue, where there are some European countries where that is becoming an issue.”
Kidd did not elaborate what countries’ foreign laws are becoming a problem in Europe when he spoke with Missourinet.
One principle of law in the European Union is the equal treatment of the national laws of other Member States as compared to domestic laws within a given country. The United States has nothing close to a European Union type of arrangement with any other country.
Under the bill being filed by Representative Kidd, court decisions involving U.S. companies under foreign law would not be recognized in Missouri. He says it does not apply to businesses that subject themselves to court decisions in other countries, but prevents those judgments from being brought to Missouri.
“It exempts corporations who have an international agreement,” Kidd said. “So, if they’re overseas and they come under somebody’s court there, then they’re OK. They can do that there. If they bring that to the United States, then it comes under American law.”
In addition, the bill does not authorize courts to decide religious matters.
The measure in its current form is similar to legislation sponsored by Republican House member Mike Moon of Ash Grove in 2016 and this year. In both instances, the bills weren’t assigned to committees until the final days of the session and consequently never received a hearing.
Representative Kidd says he was asked to sponsor the proposal in the upcoming session under his standing as Vice Chairman of the Special Committee on Homeland Security.
The session officially begins January 3rd.