Bill banning Shariah law in Florida family cases passes Senate panel

Florida lawmakers are poised to pass a controversial law banning courts from using foreign law, after a split Senate committee signed off on the measure.

The bill (SB 58) would ban courts or other administrative authorities form using religious or foreign law in deciding matters related to family law, including divorce and child custody. The House approved a similar measure last year but it died on the Senate floor.

The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee approved the bill by a 5-4 vote, with one Republican voting against it and one Democrat voting in favor, surprising opponents of the bill, who expected it to fail.

Critics, including the Florida Bar, the Anti-Defamation League, the ACLU of Florida and the National Council of Jewish Women, contend the bill would have a negative impact on Jewish divorces, called “gets,” and could trouble the state’s relationship with Israel.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, the bill’s sponsor, drew fire from Islamic groups two weeks ago when he likened Shariah law to a “dreadful disease” requiring inoculation to protect Americans.

Palm Beach Post, 8 April 2013

Update:  See Shawna Vercher, “Florida Democrat’s vote advances ‘anti-religious hate’ bill”, Huffington Post, 10 April 2013