"These copycat bills on Sharia law and terrorism have no effect. So why do states keep passing them?" This is the title of an in-depth report produced after the two-year investigation. This story was part of a collaboration between USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity.
A far-right think tank pushed model bills on Sharia law and terrorism in dozens of states. Civil-rights groups say the goal was to stoke fear, the report said, adding:
"A lawmaker in Idaho introduces legislation to prevent traditional Islamic law from infiltrating U.S. courts. In Florida, a legislator proposes striking at the foundations of terrorism with a bill bolstering victims' ability to sue its supporters.
"The lawmakers' efforts are seemingly unrelated, their statehouses almost 2,000 miles apart. But both get their ideas, and the actual text of their bills, from the same representative of the same right-wing think tank. And when they introduce the bills, the same activist group dispatches supporters to press for passage.
"Eric Redman of Idaho and Mike Hill of
Florida are among dozens of legislators who have sponsored copycat bills
written and pushed by a network of far-right think
The legislation was developed by the Center for Security Policy, which was founded by Frank Gaffney, a Reagan-era acting Assistant Secretary of Defense, who pushes conspiracy theories alleging radical Muslims have infiltrated the government, according to the investigative report. "Once the copycat bills are introduced, local chapters of the Washington, D.C.-based ACT for America, which describes itself as the "NRA of national security," encourage their supporters to show up at legislative hearings and flood lawmakers' inboxes and phone lines in support of the bills. ACT's founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has claimed that up to a quarter of all Muslims support the destruction of Western civilization."
ACT and the Center for Security Policy are at the center of a broader network that over a decade has waged a successful campaign that has reached every statehouse and led to the bills they've written and supported being introduced more than 70 times. Six states--Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee--have passed both the anti-Islamic law and anti-terrorism measures.
"For the first time, the investigation reveals how effective efforts behind the American Laws for American Courts model bill have been and how those groups have branched out to include Andy's Law and other copycat bills that critics view as Islamophobic, keeping their issues on the agenda in statehouses across the country."
South Carolina introduces anti-Sharia bill in January 2019
The State reported on February 11, 2019, that no South Carolina court ever has relied upon Islamic law. But a Berkeley County Republican remains intent on curbing "foreign law" in S.C. courts.
State Sen. Larry Grooms in January 2019 introduced a bill to prevent the use of "foreign law" in South Carolina.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest civil-advocacy American Muslim group, says this is part of a thinly veiled national movement to demonize the Islamic faith.
Grooms' bill does not mention Islam or its Sharia law by name. But CAIR argues the legislation purposefully is broad to circumvent legal challenges, and targets Islamic religious principles and practices.
Grooms introduced similar bills in 2013 and 2017 that failed to move out of committee.
As of 2018, 13 states had passed laws that forbid courts from considering any international law or a particular religious legal tradition most often "Sharia law" that doesn't grant the same rights as the U.S. Constitution or a state's constitution, according to CAIR.