Montana’s Senate Bill 97, which prohibits the application of foreign laws in Montana, passed the Republican-controlled House Judiciary along party lines and will now move to the House floor, Montana Public Radio reported on March 13.
The legislation doesn’t specifically target Sharia law, but both those in favor of and opposed to the measure have referred to it in hearings as the “Sharia law bill.” Sharia law is what governs Islamic societies, in the public square and at home.
The bill’s sponsor, state Senator Keith Regier insists that his intent is to protect the fundamental liberties of Montana citizens by forbidding the use of foreign laws in state courts.
“For these immigrants to retain their diverse rule of law would create a society in chaos,” said Regier, as reported by the Flathead Beacon.
Sandy Montgomery, a constituent of Regier’s, defended the measure, calling it “long overdue.”
“We have allowed legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and now refugees to take advantage of our law and our culture and to take up their own agendas,” she said. “They have no intention to abide by our laws nor are they interested in assimilating into our culture.”
Sandy Bradford of Helena fears that the application of Sharia law in state courts would hurt women’s rights.
“It is my opinion that Islam is not a peaceful religion,” said Bradford. “In fact Islam is not a religion at all but rather an ideology. Islam in my opinion is an enemy to all. But especially to women.”
Rachel Carroll Rivas, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, decried the bill as “A direct reaction to Islamophobia” and an “underhanded effort to spread an alarmist message about Islam to keep Muslims in the United States on the margins.
The legislation is “rooted in xenophobia that is unfounded and unfair,” she said.
The bill now advances to the House-floor for debate. Should it pass, it will go to Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, for consideration.