Court Under Fire For Upholding Application of Islamic Law in Florida Court

The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland, Florida is under fire after upholding the use of Islamic law by Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Richard A. Nielsen. The uproar has reignited the national controversy over the perceived threat of Sharia law to the United States.

I have long been a critic of Sharia law in other countries and I am a staunch believer in the separation of church and state. However, the current movement to ban the reliance on Sharia law in the United States is nothing short of hysteria.

It is true that Judge Nielson applied Islamic law to resolve a dispute over the authority to spend money at a mosque. However, he was not supplanting state law with Sharia law. To the contrary, state contract law required him to enforce the prior agreement of the parties, which stated that they would be bound by Islamic law.

The dispute centered on the Islamic Education Center of Tampa and its move to expel four founding members. There was a disagreement over how to spend $2.5 million that the mosque received from Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise in exchange for 3.4 acres needed to widen a highway.

The use of religious law in such disputes is not unique. For many decades, New York has an extensive network of Jewish courts that would at times lead to legal disputes in the state and federal courts. While applying religious codes, these are cases that turn on primarily contractual and not religious law.

Source: Tampa Tribune

39 thoughts on “Court Under Fire For Upholding Application of Islamic Law in Florida Court”

  1. Mespo,

    “the full and free right to entertain any religious belief, to practice any religious principle , and to teach any religious doctrine which does not violate the laws of morality and property, and which does not infringe personal rights, is conceded to all.”

    ***********************

    Tell that to those Rastafari who incorporate marijuana in their religious rituals or the Native American Church and their peyote ritual.

    Of course I take exception to the argument that any court has the right to tell me I can or can’t use Marijuana, Peyote or any other substance for religious or other purposes. They may have the authority under the law, but they do not have the right. Rights are positive values granted by nature and can not be taken away. Only restricted.
    Therefore I have a right to take peyote. the court or legislature is restricting the excercise of my rights when they tell me I am not allowed to take Peyote.
    The idea that the constitution is the end all and be all of the rights we have is false. the constitution admits that it wasn’t able to forsee or enumerate all of the rights that belong to man. The government has ever since spent it’s time restricting and ruling that this or that is not a right (such as the Peyote question) That is in direct opposition to the purpose of the courts and legislature which is uphold and protect the rights of the citizens

  2. tom,

    A few of the ways that I have seen a Get enforced is through the court as a separate and distinct document….The Rabbi makes the agreement and the parties enforce it through the court….Not all do that though….

  3. Elaine M.
    1, October 28, 2011 at 2:19 pm
    pete,

    I’ve heard lots of prison inmates like to pump iron. I guess what the judge likes to do is a bit different.
    🙂

    ———————————————————————

    Stop it with the camel jokes you two … I have a copyright on pumping jokes

  4. It does seem a little odd if this case included having a secular judge ruling on a point of Islamic jurisprudence.

    I always assumed that if two parties wanted a contract to be based in religious law, then they would agree to have disputes settled by a sort of “specialized” binding arbitration – where the Imam or Priest or Rabbi would be the arbitrator.

  5. mespo and ay

    thanks, i learned a little something.

    elaine

    i haven’t checked the link yet, but my first thought was if the judge was allowed to take the penis pump to prison with him.

  6. mespo727272 1, October 27, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Dredd:

    “the full and free right to entertain any religious belief, to practice any religious principle , and to teach any religious doctrine which does not violate the laws of morality and property, and which does not infringe personal rights, is conceded to all.”

    ***********************

    Tell that to those Rastafari who incorporate marijuana in their religious rituals or the Native American Church and their peyote ritual.

    We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the state is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition.

    Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990).
    ========================================
    The case of an exception.

    Not the case of a rule.

    The case I cited, and its progeny, is the rule.

  7. Lotta,

    Don’t feel too bad for him….he served in the Legislature as well….So I am sure he has that pension coming….But from what I was able to glee from the court files….he was arrested for stalking his ex girlfriend….as a registered sex offender while his pants were “gaping: open…she also had complaints of 23 tires being slashed….

  8. Elaine M, Thanks for that update.

    I think that the loss of a pension is unjust- If you commit a crime and serve your time then it’s over. Some added, draconian penalty that messes up the rest of your life is IMO cruel and unusual. Pensions are investments for employees and part of the employees overall compensation package. As I recall, this became an issue during the 80’s as a new tool in the war on drugs. Bad law, very bad law.

  9. Off Topic:

    TPMMuckraker
    Former OK Judge Loses Pension Over Penis Pump
    10/27/2011
    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/10/former_ok_judge_loses_pension_after_using_penis_pu.php?ref=fpb

    Excerpt:
    A former judge in Oklahoma has lost his pension after he was convicted of indecent exposure for using a penis pump under his robes during trials.

    Donald Thompson, formerly a judge in Creek County, Oklahoma, was found guilty in 2006 of four felony counts for using the penis pump, and wound up serving 20 months in prison.

    On Tuesday the state Supreme Court upheld a ruling that stripped Thompson of his $7,789 a month in pension benefits in 2006. Thompson had asked for his full benefits to be restored from his over 20 years on the bench.

  10. Dredd,

    See this case if you want an education…in canonical law and jurisdiction….

    In August 1990, the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan filed a lawsuit claiming jurisdiction over Mariners’ Church as a parish within the Episcopal Church.[9] Mariners’ Church held that it is an independent congregation free of denominational ties, while the Episcopal Church held that it had always considered the church an Episcopal congregation. The courts ruled in favor of Mariners’ Church in the initial case in 1990 and the appeal in 1992.[8]

    This is where a lot of the old money in Detroit still go to church….it is at the mouth of Windsor Tunnel….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariners'_Church

  11. Dredd:

    “the full and free right to entertain any religious belief, to practice any religious principle , and to teach any religious doctrine which does not violate the laws of morality and property, and which does not infringe personal rights, is conceded to all.”

    ***********************

    Tell that to those Rastafari who incorporate marijuana in their religious rituals or the Native American Church and their peyote ritual.

    We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the state is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition.

    Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990).

  12. Blouise:

    Really there’s no universally accepted right answer if you are willing to give credence to the crazy agreements of people make in the “choice of law” provision. I suspect the Court would look to the best interests of the kids — as AY suggests — and invalidate the contract as to the employment restriction. The residency restriction is more problematic since it doesn’t directly bear on the kids so long as the father can enjoy visitation, but a restriction on her Constitutional right to travel would have me tossing that provision in the round file – legally speaking, of course.

    AY’s mention of the “Mahr” is interesting. It’s a dowry of sorts paid upon divorce and predates the common law. There are some scholarly works on the concept but there is no generally accepted treatment.

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