Bob Marshall’s Anti-Sharia Law Law

By Lloyd the Idiot

I don’t get it.

Though touted by some as a law that would prevent Sharia law from being applied in US courts, the bill offered by Del. Bob Marshall really doesn’t do anything to change existing law.  All it says is “no judge shall decide any issue based on foreign law except to the extent federal or state law requires or authorizes” it. (edited for brevity and ellipses deleted).

That’s exactly the way it is now.  Judges apply American law to an issue unless, under American law, a foreign law would apply.  For example, a contract between two multinational companies may state that Dutch law applies in any case between the parties.  In a suit filed in the US, an American judge would, under American law, look to the agreement of the parties and, in that case, would apply the Dutch law because it was chosen by the parties.  Seems like the same analysis would hold true in virtually every case – including those potentially involving the application of Sharia law.

What am I missing here?


  • Rather than update the post, I’ll just answer my own question. I’m missing nothing — other than the obvious grandstanding by a senatorial candidate.

  • BlackOut says:

    Marshall is a complete joke. Again I ask the question what has happened to the GOP gene pool for candidates? (Rhetorical)

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    This is the same poltical trick that R’s used against Obama regarding providing life sustaining measures to children who survived late term abortions. Write a bill that does no change to existing law and then use it against your opponent when they vote against it. I can see it now “so and so voted to support sharia law”. A certain portion of the population (i.e., those who he is trying to motivate to the polling place) will never even attempt to listen to the “we already HAD that law” explanation.

  • By the way, there are two kinds of people I just can’t stand: those who are intolerant of other peoples’ cultures . . . and the Dutch.

  • NateDogg614 says:

    My guess is that he’s just making it official by spelling it out.

    Lloyd, I like your quote from Austin Powers. It like a deleted scene from Team America, which I’m not going to repeat, other than to say the hawkish head of the Team America organization comments that he let racism cloud his judgment when he was visualizing the “ultimate terrorist.”

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:

    And Shariah law has to be recognized for the same reason as other laws and as long as it is not incompatible with the constitution.

    For example, I was married under Shariah law. My marriage document was issues by a Shariah court. Is Bob Marshal suggesting my marriage itself not be recognized by a court. Is he unilaterally nullifying my marriage?

    If two parties want to use the law of Saudi Arabia to govern a contract, and since that law uses their particular Shariah code, does he want to tell private parties that they can’t use it?

    If so, is he prepared to remove all contractual references to French law?

    These things are stupid. Any aspect of a foreign law that goes against our constitution is forbidden already in the US.

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:

    This guy is also trying to legislate marriage.

    HB 826 Bigamy; penalty.

    Introduced by: Robert G. Marshall | all patrons … notes | add to my profiles

    Bigamy; penalty. Provides that a person who, while already married, purports to marry another or cohabits with another under the appearance of being married is guilty of bigamy, which is punishable as a Class 4 felony.

  • LA, what’s the problem with the bigamy one? Again, it seems like that’s the law today.

    Ask any Mormon.

  • liz says:

    He already legislated marriage. The amendment to the VA Constitution that reads,

    Question: Shall Article I (the Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of
    Virginia be amended to state:
    “That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.

    This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of

    is known as the Marshall/Newman amendment for a reason.

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:

    My problem with it is that it is not the appropriate role of government at any level to legislate anything about who marries who. It should all be private contracts and religious endorsement if desired.

    This guy is my classic Right Wing Liberal. You look through his list of sponsored legislation and it is a plethora of intervention in people’s lives. His idea of what things government ought to do.

    It hurts nobody if 2 women and a man get married or if two men and a woman get married or if 3 women and two men get married. They will anyway. Laws don’t stop bigamy. They just drive it underground and give them trouble for no good reason.

  • And, LA, I would disagree with you on Sharia “law.” It’s an element of Islam, and therefore religion protected under the 1st amendment, but it is not the “law” of the United States in any other respect.

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:


    Perhaps this is a technical point then that I am unfamiliar with in the way the law works. In some countries it IS (unfortunately) the law. If we agree to enforce a contract under Saudi law, would we not be agreeing to be submitting to Shariah law (as documented in Saudi) for the purposes of that contract.

    Nobody is going to get their arms cut off or something, but if we agree to the rules surrounding interest?

    So… If I am an American company and do a deal with the Saudi govt and we agree the contract shall be enforcable under Saudi law, but arbitrated in the US. And we have a dispute. Say there is money I am holding in escrow for the Saudi government and I must comply with the interest regulations. And I do not.

    So the Saudis would trigger that part of the contract saying that I did not follow Saudi Shariah law regarding my handling of the money.

    How would that work? Not a lawyer, so genuinely don’t know.

    The thing that worries me is that my only official marriage document is from a Shariah court. Everything else is a translation. I have had to provide that document in the US occasionally and everyone has recognized it. Would this law stop them from recognizing I am married?

  • Bigamy is already illegal. Constitutionally, as Liz points out. Bob Marshall, of all people, ought to realize that.

    This “foreign law” bill is opposed by a wide array of interests because of its possible unintended consequences on international business and religious freedom. It could arguably impact things like the ability of courts to enforce resolutions to internal church disputes that are reached according to religious doctrines, such as canon law. And marriage. The American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League, as well as multiple interfaith organizations, oppose it due to similar concerns.

    And because it originates from and taps into anti-Muslim animus, it will probably pass. It’s a “culture war” brochure bill. As LA said, these thing are stupid.

    Thanks for posting about this, Lloyd.

  • LA, I’m thinking more about the family law aspect. Divorce and child custody should be determined under the laws of the state in which the family is located, not under sharia law.

    As examples (and I have no idea whether these are even remotely accurate or not), say Sharia law allowed a man to divorce his wife by thrice saying, “I break with thee” or that the man always had sole custody rights in the event of a marriage dissolution. I would have a problem with that because it would allow religion to trump the law everyone else plays by (and agreed upon).

  • BlackOut says:

    Why is Marshall limiting this to just Sharia Law? Same principles that Marshall is basing his initiative on should also be applied to Canon Law, etc.

    He needs to amend his bill to include:

    Canon law (Catholic Church)
    Canon law (Church of England)
    Canon law (Episcopal Church in the United States)
    Canons of Dort
    Canons of the Apostles

    Then he needs to also add:

    Book of Cord (Lutheran Church)
    Presbyterian Polity
    Pēdálion (Greek Orthodox Church)

    Just a few examples, I am sure there are hundreds of other examples.

    Where the heck does this puritan get his ideas from?

  • BlackOut says:

    There is an excellent example of our laws working with Canon law right here in our back yard.

    In this case, the congregation voted to leave the Episcopal church and in doing so demanded the church property. Lawsuits ensued and the ruling was based on a combination of Fed/State laws and balanced with consideration of church governing Canon law.

    Justice prevailed in the end.

  • BO, he’s not limiting it to Sharia law. He expressly said as much.

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:

    Interesting… If in a pre-nuptial agreement, two people pre-agree to custody or the mechanism for divorce, you are saying that provision cannot be enforced?

    I would agree that nobody can agree to a system of law that is different from that which we all agree to.

    Our current system allows for contracts to be enforced by other kinds of laws. Is that true even if that law conflicts with our existing one? For example, perhaps we have laws regarding fraud that are completely different than in Belarus. If we both agree to be governed by Belarus and I engage in fraud, would the US law supercede?

    I think all of this points out one of my main themes. get the government out of most of this stuff. It gets messy with everyone’s agendas. When it is just between two parties then it is an agreed upon agenda – presumably to benefit both parties.

    I should be clear for anyone who doesn’t follow my comments. I am completely against Shariah Law anywhere. Including in Islamic countries. I think that 90% of the laws in the US should go away or be simplified.

    And then it goes back to judgement. Instead of putting all of this stuff into an list of laws getting longer and longer, why not stay out of it and let a JUDGE use his or her JUDGMENT about what is the right and fair thing to do.

    If, with appeals, many panels of judges agree, then we should be able to accept it.

  • BlackOut says:

    True Lloyd, but the rhetoric about this needs to be expanded. He obviously hasn’t thought out the impact of this legislation. If he had he would realize the magnitude of the effect.

  • “If in a pre-nuptial agreement, two people pre-agree to custody or the mechanism for divorce, you are saying that provision cannot be enforced?”


    You can agree how to divvy up the assets, but not the mechanism for divorce or custody.

  • BO, I think it has no effect. Where do you see it doing anything, using a real world example?

  • BlackOut says:

    OK, I am getting where you’re coming from Lloyd.

    Ain’t nothing but a bunch a show is what I am getting from this.

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:


    Is my current marriage – done under Shariah Law in a Shariah Court in another country recognized in Virginia? The US federal government certainly recognizes foreign marriages. Would this proposed law prevent people from being married in other countries?

  • Let's Be Free says:

    This post is much ado about nothing. Another way of saying what is in the legislative language is that Shariah Law shall not be used to expand or shrink responsibilities, rights and obligations otherwise existing under US and state law. Theft is a crime under US law; that Shariah law holds it criminal as well is no excuse for invalidating or not enforcing the US law.

    A marriage in another country would be recognized to the extent US law generally recognizes marriages in other countries. However, a bigamous Shariah marriage performed elsehwhere would not be recognized just like any other foreign bigamous marriage would not be recognized. That Shariah authorized the bigamous marriage would not be cause to recognize the otherwise unlawful union. To fully understand how this law would work it has to be read together with a large body of law known as Conflict of Laws. As is, the amateur legal beagles are reading way too much into what is a pretty simple proposition.

  • Let's Be Free says:

    The church example is akin to a business breaking up with no clear cut agreement concerning the division of assets. Most organizations plan for success, not devolution, and leave a murky trail to be followed in the case of failure or dispute. In the case of a church and its congregations, just as with a busines and its operating units or franchises units, a court will look at all the evidence to discern the parties understanding as to the ownership and control of the assets when the parties have failed to be explicity themselves. Looking at a church’s cannon law in these situations isn’t really any different than looking at a corporation’s bylaws. For an intramural matter regarding property ownership the Sharia Law limitation would not forbid a court to look at religious documents if the parties had failed to make clear who has ownership and control of property.

  • liz says:

    Let’s Be Free, this post is about Bob Marshall’s grandstanding. That is not much ado about nothing, it is about the fact that Bob Marshall acts* like a bigot, a homophobe, and a misogynist.

    *Please note I say he acts like a bigot, a homophobe, and a misogynist. I have no idea whether or not he actually is one.

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:


    Was there a problem with foreign law being applied in Virginia? What incidents in VA brought this to the fore? Or is he solving a problem that doesn’t even exist?

  • LBF,

    Actually, the post IS about “nothing” because that is exactly what the Marshall bill would do. It changes nothing as to the law applicable in any particular circumstance.

  • What I’m getting from this is that either it’s a solution in search of a problem and wouldn’t add anything to existing law, or it would open the door to a lot of mischief that these various religious organizations are concerned about. It can’t be both.

    If it’s the former, what’s the point? It’s grandstanding and should be ridiculed as such. If it’s the latter, which I suspect or these organizations that are very well versed in the law wouldn’t be concerned, then it’s a very poorly conceived law. Why would anyone who cares about religious freedom support this?

    To add to the fun, the GA just passed a bill that allows any child placement agency to use its own religious doctrine in determining to whom it provides services, rather than the established standards based on the best interests of children and qualifications. How is that anything other than the opposite of what Marshall’s bill purports to do? It basically provides for foreign law in the form of any religious doctrine to supersede Virginia public policy.

  • liz says:

    David, don’t be silly, it’s because the adoption law is about religions that they like!

  • David and Liz. You are wrong (again). The adoption bill protects religious freedom. It prevents the state from forcing faith-based agencies to make adoptions they object to on religious grounds.

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:


    You ok if those religious grounds include Shariah?

  • liz says:

    Dearest David D, state-sponsored bigotry hiding behind the robes of religion makes both the state and the religion uglier.

  • Elder Berry says:

    David D, it seems to me you are saying that the adoption bill allows faith-based agencies to discriminate in adoptions. Do you really endorse a situation in which a Catholic agency should only allow Catholics to adopt? Shouldn’t state laws determine who can adopt?

    Let’s Be Free, you are giving the reason that this bill is redundant and would have no effect (which I agree with by the way but I also think it leaves room for mischief in misinterpretation) and therefore you are justifying the reason for Lloyd’s posting about Del. Marshall’s motivations.

  • David D, please do answer LA’s question. I expect it will provide much insight.

  • Let's Be Free says:

    I think what the law does is put a stake in the ground. In some quarters, in the name of multiculturalism, there’s been a groundswell of support to import laws and legal principles from outside the US system. What this bill and others like it would do is enshrine long-time conflict of laws principles that have been judicially applied. Codifying judge made law and therefore making it more predictable and certain is viewed in most other contexts as a positive. No reason why it can’t be viewed the same way here.

  • Let's Be Free says:

    No doubt there were laws proposed by grandstanding legislators and passed in the aftermath of the priest pedophilia scandals. I didn’t see any problem with that. Whether one likes grandstanding or not depends on one’s point of view — there’s nothing inherently evil about the tactic.

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:


    You didn’t answer my question. Specifically, what incident in Virginia happened where foreign law was applied incorrectly.

    Maybe it is my logical head speaking instead of a lawyer’s distinctly illogical thinking, but if it ain’t broke, then why are we fixing it? Because someone is afraid of something?

    That opens cans of worms for unintended consequences and malicious use by any number of parties. The liberals will jump on this law and use it to stop all kinds of things. Heck they will find a way to kick half the defense contractors in Virginia out of the state based on their contracts which reference foreign law.

    If you cannot give an example, then this law is silly. It is protecting us from something we are not in danger from. It is solving a problem we don’t have with a solution that does nothing but cause more trouble. It is this stuff that bad laws like Obamacare are made.

    So again….

    What exactly happened in Virginia that made this bill get introduced. What problem are we fixing?

  • AFF says:

    “What exactly happened in Virginia that made this bill get introduced. What problem are we fixing?”

    Couldn’t you just insert this statement when commenting on the GA work so far in 2012? What happened to jobs and the economy?

  • Nonresponsive.

    Move to strike.

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:

    If LBF can’t come up with the reason/problem we ACTUALLY have that we are solving, then I would like to introduce the following bills:

    The Virginia Anti-Martian Vehicle Presence Act
    The Pizza Act (specifying that tangerines are illegal as a pizza topping)
    The Sanity Preservation Bill

  • David Dickinson says:

    Muslim adoption agencies should not be forced to provide adoptions to people who are in violation of their faith. If the muslim faith states that only muslims can adopt muslims (I don’t know that is true, but I’m using it as a hypothetical), then so be it.

    We have free markets, even for adoption. If one agency does not suit your needs, then find another agency.

  • David Dickinson says:

    Sorry, Lloyd. I don’t mean to take your thread off course but Liz and David chimed on the adoption bill and I couldn’t resist pointing out how wrong they are.

  • Let's Be Free says:

    Unfortunately we judges and justices who reach across the pond for legal guidance, where in the name of multiculturalism, there has been experimentation with allowing Sharia law to prevail. My concern this could happen hear is something that I may not have had two or three years ago. But here I sit and I see a long serving member of the Supreme Court dissing our constitution and system of laws (Ginsburg) in a recorded interview. I’ve heard Justice Stephen Byers speak volumes about the legitimacy of importing legal doctrine from outside our border. If there is a pizza, tangerine, or martian legal doctrine out there that sitting members of the Supreme Court, or any other court of legimate stature, have signaled they may import into our system I would favor a law forbidding the same just as I favor a law forbidding the import of the Sharia. Or let’s say the Supreme Court was making noises about the possibility of forcing civil law (of French origina and practiced only in Lousiana in these United States) on the other 40 states, locking in our rights to be free of civil law by our own choosing and tradition would be legitimate as well.

  • Let's Be Free says:

    ya 49 states here vs. hear, excuses all my typos

  • Lots of words but still no answer to LA.

  • Cato the Elder says:

    Let’s be objective here – selected elements of Sharia could be quite useful:

  • Elder Berry says:

    If we implement Sharia Law can we make Callista Gingrich wear a burka?

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