Florida lawmakers are slated to pass a controversial bill banning courts from taking into account foreign or religious law — including sharia law — when deciding on family cases including divorce and child custody. The House approved similar legislation in 2012, but it never made it past the Senate floor.
The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee approved the bill by a 5-4 vote the Palm Beach Post reports, with one Republican voting against the measure and one Democrat voting in favor.
Critics including the Florida Bar, the Anti-Defamation League, the ACLU of Florida and the National Council of Jewish Women argue that the bill could also have a negative impact on the Jewish community when it comes to divorces, or “gets,” as well as adversely effect Israelis living in Florida.
“This legislation … could undermine Florida’s strong reputation and track record as a center for trade with Israel and other nations” and “serve as an incentive for them to take their business elsewhere,” David Barkey, religious freedom counsel for the Florida Anti-Defamation League said. The Post adds:
The bill would simply ban courts from basing a decision regarding family law cases on a foreign law that does not grant the parties the same constitutional rights and privileges guaranteed by the state or federal constitution. And it would ban courts from enforcing decisions, such as alimony or child custody, granted in foreign courts that are not the same as state law.
NCJW Vice President of Advocacy Linda Geller Schwartz believes the legislation could also negatively impact Israeli nationals and dual citizens living in Florida.
“The message being given to the Jewish population and other minorities is a very unwelcoming one,” she said.
Republican Sen. Alan Hays, the bill’s sponsor, has drawn condemnation from Islamic groups after dubbing sharia law a “dreadful disease.”
While even House sponsor Larry Metz (R-Yalaha) said the bill is meant as a safeguard against having “offensive law invading our legal system,” the Florida law does not mention sharia law specifically, according to reports.
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