by Randy LoBasso
Philadelphia City Council members Curtis Jones, Jr. and Maria Quinones Sanchez have introduced Resolution 120031, which sends an overnight package straight to Harrisburg containing one (1) middle finger. The Resolution, as yet unnamed, “Urg[es] the Pennsylvania General Assembly to reject House Bill 2029 as unnecessary and inconsistent with our core constitutional principles…affirming that the Council of the City of Philadelphia welcomes all religious beliefs, traditions and heritages.”
House Bill 2029, what’s that? Glad you asked. It’s what’s being referred to in some circles as the Anti-Foreign Law Bill. In others: the Anti-Sharia Law Bill. Introduced by Rep. Rosemarie Swanger (R-Lebanon), the bill would ban all cases of foreign law infused in Pennsylvania courts. Muslim and Jewish law is often used in court as it regards divorce and personal matters, but there is no evidence of foreign law being used to define actual court cases in Pennsylvania. Many advocacy groups, like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, believe bills like HB 2029 are meant to induce anti-Muslim fervor the country over.
Last we heard about this bill, Rep. Swanger told us her intent had nothing to do with a threat of Sharia Law, even though that’ll be included. Swanger’s intent was allegedly stated on a memo she sent out before the bill was introduced, in which she stated, “America has unique laws of liberty which do not exist in foreign legal systems, particularly Sharia Law.” And: “We are a nation of laws. Unfortunately, increasingly, foreign laws and legal doctrines—including and especially Sharia Law—are finding their way into U.S. court cases.”
She claims she was set up.
“I said nothing about it when I sent it over there. And when it came back, it was rife with references to Sharia Law,” Swanger told PW. “I still didn’t find out who wrote it but I am pretty livid about that. That was not my intention. As soon as I found out what happened I pulled it, and we sent out a corrected one… Apparently somebody who’s not my friend sent it out and made it public because it is not what should have gone out. I want to get to the bottom of it but I have to wait, of course, until next year.”
Now that it’s next year, looks like the fight is back on, even if it never comes up for a vote. And City Council isn’t taking its time. “RESOLVED,” Jones and Sanchez’s resolution reads, “BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, That the City of Philadelphia welcomes all religious beliefs, traditions and heritages, and that this body has full confidence in the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the state of Pennsylvania and does not entertain any concern that any foreign or religious law offers a threat to the law of the land.”
Anti-Sharia laws have been passed in several states, often by voter referendum. Most recently, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals declared an Oklahoma ban on Sharia Law unconstitutional. The Oklahoma law specifically mentions “Sharia,” while the Pennsylvania law does not. Moein Khawaja, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, told PW of the ban, “What we have in Pennsylvania is version 2.0., which is an attempt to refine it a little bit. It doesn’t mention Sharia or Islam or our faith. But that doesn’t matter because we have a lot of evidence of the legislative intent…from the numerous public statements given by Rep. Swanger.”
The City Council Resolution is expected to pass unanimously.
UPDATE: Bill was passed today (2/2/12)