On Friday, we posted about HF2489 in Four MN House Republicans introduce companion to Senator Brown's "foreign law" bill, noting that the senate version of the bill was a key point for those criticizing Brown's presence at a controversial talk last week in St. Cloud.
There's more about that meeting in Sunday's Star Tribune.
Maya Rao reports in St. Cloud comes to grips with clashes between immigrants, longtime locals:
There are fresh signs that tensions are still simmering.
Last week, a crowd attended a chicken dinner and talk titled “Shariah 101” by Jeffrey Baumann, a Coon Rapids man who said he believes Muslims and sharia law will take over the country. Standing at the front of a ballroom at Michael’s Restaurant in St. Cloud, Baumann said Muslims will eventually outnumber Christians in the United States.
The evening was organized by Kathleen Virnig, the former owner of a Catholic bookstore in St. Cloud. She said she was “dragged through the mud” by critics on social media in the days before the event. “They aren’t even willing to hear what the other person is saying and they condemn them,” she said.
Virnig said refugees have overwhelmed St. Cloud’s ability to care for them, costing the taxpayers too much and bringing changes to the city that aren’t supported by local Christians.
Baumann encouraged people to go to interfaith dialogues and public talks on Islam in Mankato, Brooklyn Park and, next week, at St. Cloud State University. Baumann said that people should go to the foot-washing station at the SCSU student union and use it to “make a scene.” The station was installed in 2001 after a Muslim student slipped and hit her head while washing her feet at a bathroom sink.
“If they’re challenged, ask ‘Is this Muslim-only or is this a public facility?’ ” said Baumann, adding that someone should bring a video camera to make sure that it has an effect.
Where did Minnesota's Anti-Sharia bills come from?
And Rao adds a couple of more names to the list of Minnesota legislators who attended the event:
The four legislators who attended Baumann’s speech were Sens. David M. Brown, R-Becker, and Bruce D. Anderson, R-Buffalo, and Reps. Jim Newberger, R-Becker, and Cindy Pugh, R-Chanhassen. None returned calls and e-mails last week seeking comment, though Brown told MPR that Baumann’s talk was not an “Islam-is-terrible type of thing.”
Pugh spoke briefly at the event, according to a source; she is a co-sponsor of HF2489. The sponsor of the pre-filed bill is Lake Shore Republican Mark Anderson, whose campaign committee chair, Bill Dain, organized an anti-refugee talk in Baxter on behalf of the Central Minnesota Tea Party Patriots. Based in Browerville, the group is a separate Tea Party organization from the St Cloud area's Central Minnesota Tea Party.
The legislation appears to be modeled after laws passed in at least seven states by the spring of 2015, according to Anti-Sharia Laws: A Solution in Search of a Problem, a Jurist guest column by Associate Professor of Law at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago Steve D. Schwinn:
There is a growing trend in the states to ban the use of foreign and international law, including Sharia law, in state courts. At least seven states have enacted measures to prohibit their courts from considering foreign and international law and many others are considering such a ban. But despite the lofty rhetoric of supporters, these bans can do nothing that state law does not already do. The bans do not protect against the undue influence of foreign or international law upon our own domestic law and they do not protect against any real threat to individual rights. At their best, they are a solution in search of a problem. At their worst, however, they alienate politically unpopular groups and gratuitously condemn their beliefs.
The trend started in Oklahoma when, in 2010, Oklahoma voters approved the "Save Our State" constitutional amendment. The amendment banned the use of international law and foreign law in Oklahoma courts; it singled out Sharia law for particular disapprobation. It provided that "[t]he courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia law."
The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit roundly struck the amendment in Awad v. Ziriax [PDF]. The court ruled that the ban on Sharia violated the Establishment Clause because the ban discriminated among religions without a compelling interest—or without any interest, for that matter. Indeed, the court noted that defenders of the amendment could not identify a single instance when an Oklahoma court applied Sharia law or other foreign law, much less an instance when such application resulted in a concrete problem for the state. But even if the state could identify an interest, the court said that the amendment was so crude that it could not "closely fit" any interest, anyway. The plaintiff's case illustrated why: Awad claimed, among other things, that the ban on Sharia would prevent Oklahoma courts from probating his will, which contained references to Sharia law. Before the amendment, state courts would have probated Awad's will, including its references to Sharia, so long as it did not violate public policy. But after the amendment, the courts could not have considered Sharia law at all, even as part of Awad's will. It is hard to see how that result serves any purpose. . . .
But in truth ALAC is worse than unnecessary and irrelevant; it is harmful and divisive. That is because it contains the same gratuitous anti-Islam intention as "Save Our State." According to the American Public Policy Alliance, which spearheads ALAC, ALAC is designed as a bulwark against Sharia law in American courts, even if ALAC itself does not specifically mention Sharia. Yet for all the blustering, advocates for ALAC have yet to identify a single instance when a court has applied foreign law, including Sharia law, in a way that created problems. They have not even coherently explained how such problems might arise, especially in light of the existing public policy exception to the general comity rule.
"Save Our States," ALAC and other attempts to restrict the use of foreign law in domestic courts are solutions in search of a problem. At their best, they do what the law already allows and requires. At their worst, they reveal an ugly underside of law and politics that seems calculated only to alienate and disempower certain disfavored peoples and to condemn certain disfavored faiths.
Update: In the St. Cloud Times, Kirsti Marohi got the same answer (it's already in the US Constitution) from two legal scholars at the University of Minnesota for her Fact check: Is ban on Sharia law necessary?.
In short, it's a redundant law, but Baumann and his pals believe they've found a way around Constitutional protections for Muslims. Just convince folks that Islam isn't a religion.
Baumann's anti-Islam views
Baumann's past published views about Muslims suggest that indeed he believes that Islam is terrible. In a 2013 letter to the editor of the ABC newpapers, "Bombings in Boston," Baumann wrote:
The bombings in Boston horrified us all, or at least we would like to believe it did, if we could just have a clear idea of who “us” is.
It’s easy to be confused when there is today little clarity about language, borders, citizenship, voting, culture, religion and even marriage, our history and our Constitution.
One bomber is dead, and the other in custody. Were there others? Maybe. Probably. But what was the motive? . . .
Lost in all this will be the simple – and accurate – answer. These were Muslims, being fully activated Muslims, waging Jihad against Kufr as best they could, just as Mohammed did and just as he instructed.
But despite this simple truth, our politicians, media and intellectuals will inundate us with calls to respect Islam, stressing that these two were part of a tiny fringe, reminding us that Islam is a Religion of Peace™, and shaming us into being more and more deferential to the demands of the most easily offended group on the planet.
And we will be lulled into returning to our lives, comfortable in the knowledge that our all-knowing, all-caring, beneficent government will keep us safe. And informed. And tolerant. And deluded.
Until one day, the number of young, male, fully activated Muslims will be such that they will simply slaughter us with impunity, as is currently happening in Thailand, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan, India, Tanzania, Algeria, Iraq, Sudan, Norway, the Philippines, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Syria. And Mali and Tunisia. And Kosovo. And Chechnya. And right here in America (Nidal Hasan).
If only we had a clear idea of who “us” is.
Eventually they will have killed more Americans than Kermit Gosnell.
Would it be too much to ask that no more Muslims be granted citizenship until this can all be sorted out?
In short, Baumann believes, based on his reading of Islam, that Muslims are not "us," and because some Muslims adopt extremist terrorist beliefs, all Muslims are a threat.
According to our source, part of Baumann's policy agenda is to remove Islam from the protections of the First Amendment because it is a "complete replacement social system, not a religion.
The view is not original to Baumann and it's not homegrown in Minnesota. It's typically espoused by speakers associated with Act! For America.
Some hard right politicians have embraced the notion. In 2014, Oklahoma State Rep. John Bennett gained national attention in articles like the Huffington Post's State Rep. John Bennett Stands By Anti-Islam Comments: 'Islam Is Not Even A Religion.'
Despite debunking, the meme still circulates. Mother Jones reports that Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson shared the same idea last week at an event at the University of Iowa in Ben Carson Says Islam Is Not a Religion But a "Life Organization System."
Though often circulated by the hard right, constitutional scholars believe the interpretation has little merit. Constitutional scholar Eugene Volokh, beloved by many gun rights supporters given his brilliant defense of the Second Amendment, has been on it for years. In 2011, the Volokh Conspiracy blogger wrote in Islam and the First Amendment, concluding after claims that the Framers of the Constitution only extended religious freedom to Christian that:
I know of no sources that suggested that anyone during the Framing era understood the Constitution as excluding “Mahometans,” or non-Christians more generally, from either the Free Exercise Clause or the No Religious Test Clause. (The Framers were open to general religious references, and sometimes references to Christianity, in the speech of the federal government; they likely had a much narrower view of the Establishment Clause than that reflected in the Supreme Court’s modern caselaw. But that is a separate matter from which religions were protected by the Free Exercise Clause and the No Religious Test Clause.)
As the anti-Islam claims grew more extreme to the point where those those making them argued that this is no religion, Volokh grew salty in his responses. Now a columnist at the Washington Post, Volokh wrote in response to Bennett's statement “Islam is not even a religion; it is a social, political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda of global conquest”:
So says Oklahoma state legislator John Bennett — using logic under which much of Christianity would have not even been a religion for much of its history. I’m delighted that modern Christianity prefers to advance its agenda of global conversion through peaceful means rather than through conquest. But it’s pretty clear that many varieties of Christianity have been spread more forcefully than that at various times, and have been “social[ and] political system[s]” as well as purely theological ones. This didn’t make them “not even a religion” back then, and similar behavior on the part of some streams of Islam doesn’t make Islam “not even a religion” today.
Now I do think that criticism of various religions can be perfectly sound, and is often proper, whether the religion is Christian Science, Mormonism, evangelical Christianity, Catholicisms, Christianity generally, Judaism, Islam or theism generally. Religions are ideological belief systems that often lead many of their adherents to act in particular ways; they may rightly be criticized just as other belief systems may rightly be criticized. (I also think that much criticism of various religions has at times been overstated or ill-founded, and that includes Islam as well as the other religions.) But the first requirement has to be to talk candidly and accurately about what’s actually going on; attempts to deny that Islam is a religion don’t qualify.
Anti-Muslim and anti-refugee advocates often cite Volokh when it fits their version of "facts."
Baumann, Butt Hurt and Knoblach
Baumann provides his audience with an opportunity for motivated reasoning. Uncomfortable with change and new neighbors who don't share their heritage, they're looking for answers; some look for "facts" to support their fears. Speakers like Baumann and Corcoran offer affirmation to those fears.
Fact checks? Evaluation of sources? Fire up the butthurt machine after closing events to the general public. We agree that these events shouldn't be cancelled--and those efforts to shut them down on the part of regional labor council staff member Jane Conrad have done more harm than good.
Indeed, these event should be opened to the general public. But those who organize closed events aren't promoting open discussion. They're embracing their fears, including a fear of the rough and tumble of open debate.
It's unlikely that the Anderson and Brown bills will get hearings in the short time of the coming session--and we suspect that even Speaker Daudt will want to provoke this nest of wasps, given Jim Knoblach's support of restoring funding for a local office of the state Department of Human Rights in St. Cloud.
Unlike Brown's senate district --and those House districts held by the authors of the House version--Knoblach serves in swing district, having been elected in the slightest of margins. As we noted in That awkward moment when we point out Knoblach's contribution to Gov's equity agenda:
As a point of fact, the first bullet point in the list, $180,000 to support the establishment of a Civil Rights in St. Cloud, was brought to the governor's attention by House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jim Knoblach, according to an October article in the St. Cloud Times.
In Gov. Dayton provides harsh criticism of racial tensions, Vicki Ikeogu reported:
Harsh words and heartfelt sentiment were exchanged by community members and local officials on racial issues in Central Minnesota at the St. Cloud NAACP Community Conversation with Gov. Mark Dayton.
Hosted on Tuesday at St. Cloud Public Library, about 100 people from diverse backgrounds gathered to ask questions of St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson, Rep. Jim Knoblach, Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, Council on Black Minnesotans Community Program Specialist Kolloh Nimley and St. Cloud AFYA Pharmacyco-owner Dr. Edris Kosar. . . .
Knoblach vowed to repeat last year's efforts in the Legislature to increase funding for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, including money for the department's office in St. Cloud.
Since Knoblach wasn't serving in the legislature in 2014, we'll assume the reporter is considering the last session and he means HF1364, a bill for which he was a co-author; retiring St. Cloud Republican John Pederson was a co-author of the companion bill, SF889.
Knoblach co-chairs the Legislative Working Group on Disparities.
While those pushing anti-refugee sentiment and anti-Muslim bills are conservatives in the Tea Party and Republican Party, not all Republicans are embracing this tripe. Knoblach, who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, was a panelist at the NAACP Community Conversation in October.
It might be convenient for both conservative and progressive operatives to heighten tensions in St. Cloud-- whatever their motives might be--but Bluestem suspects that many residents would like to see efforts that lead to a stronger community for all residents, new and old.
Image: Jeffrey Baumann (left) and Sen. David Brown (left), via cropped banner for Twin Cities IWW's Phone Blast – Demand Senator David Brown Publicly Remove His Support.
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