Awad v. Ziriax
754 F. Supp. 2d 1298 (W.D. Ok. 2010)

Facts:

  • State Question 755, which was on Oklahoma’s November 2, 2010 ballot, provided:
    • “This measure amends the State Constitution…It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.”
  • Election results showed that 70.08% of the voters approved State Question 755.
  • Plaintiff filed the instant action, challenging the constitutionality of State Question 755. Specifically, plaintiff asserted that the ban on the state courts’ use and consideration of Sharia Law violates the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and he moved for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction prohibiting officials from certifying election results until court ruled on merits of his claims.

Holding:
Motion granted.

Reasoning:

  • A movant seeking a preliminary injunction must show:
    1. A substantial likelihood of success on the merits;
    2. Irreparable injury to the movant if the injunction is denied;
    3. The threatened injury to the movant outweighs the injury to the party opposing the preliminary injunction; and
    4. The injunction would not be adverse to the public interest.
  • When a claim asserting a violation of the Establishment Clause has been made, to pass constitutional muster, the governmental action:
    1. Must have a secular legislative purpose;
    2. Its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; and
    3. It must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.

Here:

1) State Question 755′s amendment’s primary effect inhibits religion and fosters an excessive government entanglement with religion.

  • It’s reasonably viewed as specifically singling out Sharia Law, conveying a message of disapproval of plaintiff’s faith.
  • Defendants (unsuccessfully) argued that the amendment was merely a choice of law provision. However, there was sufficient evidence that Sharia Law is not actually law, but religious tradition.
    • The law imposes certain personal and moral obligations.
  • Along those same lines, the government is getting entangled in religion and interfering with the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses.

2) He will be irreparably injured because he will suffer the loss of his First Amendment freedoms.

3) The Bill of Rights protects certain individual rights from being taken away by the will of the majority.

  • Additionally, the Amendment was a preventative measure and the concern that it sought to address had yet to occur.

4) The public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual’s constitutional rights.

Rule: When a claim asserting a violation of the Establishment Clause has been made, to pass constitutional muster, the governmental action:

(1) Must have a secular legislative purpose;
(2) Its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; and
(3) It must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.