Wisconsin lawmaker dismisses separation of church and state, supports Islamophobic anti-Shariah bill

Imagine2050 Staff • Jul 11, 2017
Image source: Getty Images
Image source: Getty Images

A Wisconsin state legislator who dismissed the separation between church and state in the United States as a “fabrication” is now co-sponsoring a bill to spread baseless fear about the influence of Islam on U.S. courts. 

State Rep. Jesse Kremer is co-sponsoring House Bill 401, copycat legislation seeking to prohibit state courts from applying foreign law. The bill is based on discriminatory and unnecessary model anti-Shariah legislation known as American Laws for American Courts (ALAC). HB 401 makes no explicit mention of Islamic or Shariah law, but is almost identical to bills across the country used to stoke fear of Islam and Muslim American communities.

U.S. courts need no further protection from foreign laws than that already provided by the Constitution. In actuality, ALAC laws can restrict Muslims’ freedom of religion in private legal matters such as marriage and divorce.

The Wisconsin bill’s primary sponsor State Rep. Thomas Weatherston deflected accusations of bigotry, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel his legislation is about ensuring “religious laws” are not “creeping into the United States.” Ironically, Kremer, who is one of the 14 co-sponsors, appears to believe some religious laws should creep into government institutions.

In 2015, Jesse Kremer tweeted an image featuring a quote from him that read: “We [the United States] are a Judeo-Christian country and separation of church and state is a complete fabrication.”

Advocates of ALAC legislation claim the bill is about preserving the U.S. Constitution. Kremer, who appears to be familiar with the Bill of Rights, may have skipped over the Amendment I which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Then again, it appears Kremer is neither one for facts or advocating for certain rights guaranteed by the First Amendment such as free speech.

ALAC laws, despite legal experts deeming them unnecessary, have now been in enacted in over 10 states. This is largely due to the work of zealous anti-Muslim organizations like ACT for America and the Center for Security Policy lobbying sympathetic state lawmakers to introduce these bills. In order to avoid constitutional scrutiny, many of these bill’s sponsors now opt to use more neutral language like “foreign” or “international” law rather than specifically naming Shariah law. In 2013, a federal judge struck down an Oklahoma ALAC measure that named Shariah law because it disproportionately targeted a religious group.

These bills, however, were never meant to pass as much as they were meant to vilify Muslim communities. David Yerushalmi, an anti-Muslim activist and lawyer who drafted the initial ALAC bill, told the New York Times in 2011: “If this thing passed in every state without any friction, it would have not served its purpose.

“The purpose,” he added, “was heuristic — to get people asking this question, ‘What is Shariah?’”

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