Wednesday, the Missouri House of Representatives passed House Bill 708, sponsored by Rep. Curtman of Pacific. The bill prohibits Missouri judges from recognizing any court decree, contract, or other legal agreement issued by another country. Immigrants, more than any other group in the state, often operate under international child custody arrangements, divorce decrees, and other contracts; and this bill would remove any certainty that those contracts would be upheld by a Missouri court.
In spite of the fact that the direct impact of this bill clearly affects immigrants of all backgrounds, the intent of legislators was to demonize the Muslim community in particular. The bill’s supporters claim that it will prevent courts from considering Sharia Law in their deliberations. Sharia, the religious code observed by Muslims, is used by millions of American Muslims to guide daily actions like prayer and fair treatment of one’s neighbor. In truth, the First Amendment already rightly prevents American courts from considering any religious law.
“Legislators are unfairly targeting Muslims to score cheap political points,” said Vanessa Crawford, Executive Director of MIRA. “What makes the bill even worse is the consequence – intended or not – of disrupting the lives of thousands of Missouri’s immigrants who would have no assurance under this law that their international legal arrangements will be honored by Missouri courts. This bill is a short-sighted and mean-spirited attempt to scapegoat one community. I hope that the state Senate will be more interested in addressing Missouri’s real problems than in engaging in this unnecessary and harmful debate.”