by Sam Levin
State Senator Brian Nieves is worried about the United Nations, as reflected in his proposed legislation against an international sustainable development agreement from 1992. This U.N pledge is not, however, the only foreign offense threatening Missouri, according to the Republican legislator.
At least it seems that way from his latest bill that opponents say is nothing more than a paranoid, offensive -- and recycled -- proposal to block Sharia law, the religious law of Islam.
"It's been a stunt from the beginning," Sean Soendker Nicholson, executive director of Progress Missouri, tells Daily RFT. "He's demonstrating some sort of disgust with...Islam. There's no actual need for this legislation."
But Nieves says his critics have no idea what they are talking about -- and took to Twitter to vent about it.
See also: - Brian Nieves Named One of Southern Poverty Law Center's "Dirty Dozen" - Brian Nieves V. United Nations: Why is GOP Worried About Sustainable Development? - Birther Bill: Rep. Lyle Rowland Says "Our Country is Getting So Diverse"
Progress Missouri and Nieves had a lively Twitter debate about Senate Bill 267, which critics say is a clear mirror image of Republican proposals that have cropped up in Missouri in previous years and have been introduced around the country -- all designed to block Sharia law from somehow being imposed on states.
Progress Missouri has done some digging that shows how the language of Nieves' bill is quite similar to the arguments of David Yerushalmi, who has been accused of anti-Muslim bigotry in his arguments that Sharia Law is a major threat to American freedom. (The New York Times has this an-depth story on him.)
"They mirror his model pretty closely," says Nicholson.
As written, SB 267, full version on view below, would create the so-called Civil Liberties Defense Act that "specifies how courts may rule in contractual disputes involving the law of other countries and jurisdictional issues involving other countries." The draft says:
The Missouri general assembly finds that it shall be the public policy of this state to protect its citizens from the application of foreign laws when the application of a foreign law will result in the violation of a right guaranteed by the constitution of this state or of the United States, including, but not limited to, due process, freedom of religion, speech, or press, and any right of privacy.
Here are some excerpts of the tweets Nieves -- who did not return Daily RFT's calls yesterday -- sent about this in response to Progress Missouri:
Continue for more from Progress Missouri and the full draft bill.
Nicholson says that regardless of the proposal's origins, it's clear that it exists only to "demonstrate disgust in things that are allegedly un-American. I don't know what that means in practice."
In other words, if passed, it's unclear if it would accomplish anything.
Of Nieves' reply that the "simple answer" to the coincidence of his bill's similarity to past anti-Sharia Law proposals, Nicholson adds, "That was pretty amusing."
Here is one example of a clear similarity in language that Progress Missouri highlights:
Any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision shall violate the public policy of this state and be void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any foreign law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the United States and Missouri constitutions, including, but not limited to, due process, freedom of religion, speech, or press, and any right of privacy or marriage as specifically defined by the constitution of this state.
Compare to the Yerushalmi model:
Any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision shall violate the public policy of this State and be void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any law, legal code or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the U.S. and [State] Constitutions.
Still, that's not stopping Nieves from declaring on Twitter that his bill most definitely is "NOT about sharia!"
Here's the full draft of his bill.