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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg September 26, 2012

PAC claims Obama would force sharia law on courts

President Barack Obama is a Christian, but a political action committee called Government is not God says his religious sympathies lie elsewhere. The group paid for ads in newspapers across Florida and Ohio that warned, among other things, that if Barack Hussein Obama is re-elected, he "will move America to force courts to accept Islamic sharia law in domestic disputes."

We asked the man behind this ad, William Murray, to provide some supporting evidence. Murray cited an item from an anti-sharia group that claimed that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan is "pro-sharia." The evidence was Kagan's encouragement of Islamic legal studies at Harvard. None of Murray's sources referred to the issue of courts and domestic law.

Murray also said he was making a prediction and that it is impossible to fact check a prediction. But we are not checking the accuracy of his crystal ball. We are fact-checking whether Obama has said he would force courts to accept Islamic sharia law -- and whether such action is even possible under the U.S. Constitution.

Last January, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals shot down an Oklahoma law that blocked state courts from considering or using sharia law. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines sharia law as "Islamic law based on the Koran."

The circuit court held that the Oklahoma measure discriminated among religions and thus was unconstitutional.

The other item we found was in a Kansas divorce case. The husband in the case, who was Muslim, wanted the property divided according to a marriage contract in keeping with sharia law.

In neither case did we find any evidence of action by the Obama administration.

Other legal experts confirm this. Glenn Hendrix is managing partner in the Atlanta-based law firm of Arnall Golden Gregory and past chair of the American Bar Association’s section on International Law. Hendrix said there’s no substance to the ad’s claim. On top of that, he said it suffers from a fundamental legal flaw related to the separation of powers.

"Even if the administration were somehow pushing sharia law -- and of course it’s not," Hendrix said, "the executive branch cannot force courts to accept any particular law."

Hendrix said the Constitution and court precedent trump religious law and cited a bar association report on religious law.

"Our courts (both state and federal) have more than sufficient legal tools to permit them to reject foreign or religious law and refuse to enforce foreign judgments that do not meet our fundamental standards of fairness and justice. Constitutional rights (such as those contained in the Bill of Rights) protect everyone in the United States, and all courts throughout the country are bound to respect them. Under our Constitutional order, these rights cannot be infringed, even where foreign or religious law has been chosen by the parties."

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Hendrix said the only time that a court might rely on sharia law is if it needs to determine the validity of a marriage and the marriage was conducted in an Islamic country.

Our ruling

The ad from the Government is not God PAC said Obama "will move America to force courts to accept Islamic sharia law in domestic disputes."

The PAC offered no evidence -- and we couldn’t find any either.

The idea itself runs counter to the constitutional separation of powers and individual protections defined in the Bill of Rights.

We rate the statement Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

PolitiFact, PAC's newspaper ad filled with falsehoods," Sept. 26, 2012

Government is not God PAC, Anti-Obama ad, Sept. 23, 2012

Email interview, William Murray, chairman of Government is not God PAC, Sept. 26, 2012

USA Today, Kansas governor signs measure blocking Islamic law, May 26, 2012

Merriam-Webster, Definition of sharia law

NBC News, Federal court deals blow to anti-Shariah efforts, Jan. 10, 2012

Email interview, Glenn Hendrix, managing partner Arnall Golden Gregory, Sept. 26, 2012

National Review, Fears of creeping Sharia, June 13, 2012

Sharia Awareness Action Network, Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan is pro-Sharia law, Feb. 9, 2012

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PAC claims Obama would force sharia law on courts

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