Seemingly, few issues have vexed the members of the Tennessee General Assembly in recent years so grievously as has the specter of Sharia law — the Koran-based and severely fundamentalist legal framework which militant
jihadists have imposed on Islamic societies in lieu of secular law, when and where they can.
There has been an infinitesimally small — or nonexistent — prospect of Sharia being imposed on us here in the West, and chances of having that happen in Bible-belt Tennessee are, to say the least, even more remote.
But neither that common-sense circumstance nor the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom in the United States have been enough to quiet the fears of assorted Tennessee legislators, who in the last several years have suffered Sharia-panic to the point of questioning whether a mop sink installed in a Capitol restroom had not in fact been intended to serve as a means to facilitate foot-washing according to Islamic law.
The same group of legislators made a serious attempt in 2011 at passing a bill declaring the practice of Sharia law in Tennessee a felony. In that instance, as with the mop-sink scare, calmer heads ultimately prevailed, and the anti-Sharia bill was morphed into a much watered-down and abstractly stated "anti-terrorism" measure. The Islamophobe legislators have since moved on to stewing about alleged "no-go" zones, areas in the U.S. where only Muslims are allowed to move around freely. They haven't found any yet, but they're still looking.
The sad fact is, they're looking in the wrong direction to find evidence of religious absolutism aiming at subordinating the legal system and controlling governmental affairs. Even as we speak, the threat of state-supported religion hangs over the General Assembly as it prepares to wind up its affairs for the legislative session of 2016.
We recognize that most of the legislators, in both chambers, who managed to pass a measure to make the Bible an official state book intended no conscious coercion or hatred of others, but we agree with state Attorney General Herbert Slatery that the bill is an attempt, even if indirect, at violating the explicit Constitutional guarantees against an officially established religion. As for the flaws in various pseudo-secular rationales for the measure, see the statements against the bill in this week's "Politics" column by state Senate majority leader Mark Norris and by Governor Bill Haslam, whose veto of the bill is at risk of override as the last act of this legislative session.
Nor is the Bible bill a solitary instance. Bill after bill in recent years has been introduced in the General Assembly with the intent of imposing the monolithic moral strictures of some upon the recognized freedoms of all. Put in this category the great majority of anti-abortion bills that proliferate in every legislative session. And include also the so-called "bathroom bill," pulled only at the last minute, that would have put transgendered individuals in a crippling social limbo and compelled them to act against what they have come to perceive, at great cost in personal sacrifice, as their very nature.
Sharia law? It's closer than you think.