Raleigh, N.C. — A bill banning the recognition of Islamic Sharia law in North Carolina is scheduled for a final state House vote Thursday after it won tentative approval late Wednesday night.
The measure is modeled on legislation authored by an outspoken and controversial critic of Islam.
Sponsor Rep. Chris Whitmire, R-Transylvania, said House Bill 695 would protect North Carolinians' constitutional rights in cases involving "foreign law."
That's the wording typically used in anti-Sharia bills after an Oklahoma judge struck down as unconstitutional a similar measure that singled out Sharia by name.
The proposal would apply only in family law and custody cases.
"The most egregious cases have been those concerning custody and divorce. We don’t want it here," Whitmire said, noting that six other states have passed similar legislation, including Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee.
"Has this been a problem in North Carolina anywhere?" asked Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham.
"Not yet," Whitmire answered, adding, "we have at least 27 cases in multiple states where it has."
"You’re acknowledging we don’t have a problem here," Luebke responded. "I cannot see for the life of me why we need a bill like this."
Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston , pointed out that Democrats have been concerned in recent years about sea level rise – a problem that hasn't yet happened, either.
Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, said the bill was unnecessary because the state and federal constitutions are already the law of the land.
"You've got the protections. They're already there," Michaux said. "Here we are at 11:20 at night, trying to pass a feel-good bill that doesn’t really do anything."
Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, asked Whitmire what the North Carolina Bar Association had said about the bill in committee earlier Wednesday.
Whitmire downplayed the group's objections to the measure.
"Their spokesperson who – not to make little of the message that they brought – was brought purely by a messenger, and from the standpoint of being able to answer any questions, they were not," he responded.
When Ross asked Whitmire who had prepared a handout he distributed rebutting legal concerns about the bill, he answered, "Mr. Stephen Gele with the Security Policy Council."
According to a 2011 New York Times profile, Yerushalmi is a Brooklyn attorney with a history of inflammatory statements about Islam, race and immigration but "no formal training" in Islamic law.
Yerushalmi is general counsel for the Center for Security Policy, a right-wing think-tank that's published dozens of articles, books and films about the danger Islam poses to Western civilization.
The proposal passed its second reading 74-36, largely along party lines. It's scheduled for a final vote Thursday, which will allow it to beat the crossover deadline.