Senate Bill 97, introduced by Keith Regier (R-Kalispell) bans the application of foreign law in Montana’s courts, with the debate particularly focused on Sharia Law, a form of Islamic law typically used in the Middle East.
Although the bill passed on party lines by 56-44, Democrats claimed it was designed to target Muslim communities.
“I think it sends a dangerous message to minority groups both here living in our state and wanting to come visit our state, just merely on the fact that you may be different,” said Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, while debating the bill. “I truly believe this law is repugnant. I believe this is not who we are as Montanans.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Ellie Hill Smith (D-Missoula) proposed a failed amendment to the bill to include a ban on both Sharia Law and the Law of Moses, in order to “show the state of Montana that it is not just about Islamic Law.”
“The courts have said that laws that single out certain religions violate the First Amendment,” Smith said, claiming that it was “peppered with anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Another Democrat, Rep. Laurie Bishop (D-Livingston) urged legislators “not to forget the roots of this bill,” adding that “our children are watching.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Brad Tschida (R-Missoula) said the bill was an attempt to push back against a “constitution [that] is constantly under assault.”
Bills specifically targeting Sharia Law have passed in states such as North Carolina, Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Tennessee. The bill will now be passed on to Gov. Steve Bullock (D) for signature or veto.