An interview with Christopher W. Holton of the Center for Security Policy
by Jerry Gordon (March 2013)
During the month of February 2013, freedom of speech and human rights in Europe had been dramatically challenged. On February 5th, Lars Hedegaard, executive editor of Dispatch International and co-founder of the Danish and International Free Press Societies opened his front in Denmark what he thought was a postman delivering a package only to be shot at by a Jihadi in an attempted assassination. Hedegaard over powered the assailant who subsequently fled and is still at large. He joins fellow Danish political cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and Swedish artist Lars Vilks all of whom have been targeted with violence for exercising their rights to free expression. Whereas, Hedegaard’s fellow Danes were horrified by the shooting, Swedish media suggested that he may have brought the attack upon himself. Hedegaard has been a vigorous opponent of Sharia (Islamic law) in Denmark and the EU. He follows the dictum of fellow Dane, Westergaard, “free speech, use it.” In the wake of the attempt on his life Hedegaard refuses to be intimidated and continues, under 24/7 Danish police protection, to edit and publish Dispatch International with Swedish colleague, Ms. Ingrid Carlqvist
European Free Speech advocates, among them Hedegaard, Westergaard, Vilks, Sabaditsch-Wolff, Bat Ye’or and Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), have argued for adoption of a version of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. (See their interviews in a collection by the author, The West Speaks). Yet, the reality is that our First Amendment has been under assault by Muslim advocacy groups, civil rights and even anti-discrimination groups under the guise of combating religious intolerance. Our State and Justice Departments have conducted dialogue on the subject with the 57 member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and EU foreign ministers in sessions in Istanbul and Washington. The OIC wanted the US to adopt UN Human Rights Commission Resolution 16/18 promulgated in March 2011 that would undermine the basic Constitutional guarantees of our fundamental freedoms of free speech and religious liberty. Muslim advocacy groups in America have engaged in Lawfare seeking to stifle free speech and basic rights of habeas corpus by intimidating individuals and organizations seeking to protect such basic Constitutional guarantees.
One group in the US that has arisen to defend those liberties is the American Public Policy Alliance (APPA or “the Alliance”), a “non-partisan IRC 503 (c) (4) advocacy organization. The national spokesperson for the Alliance is attorney Stephen M. Gelé of the New Orleans law firm of Smith & Fawer. The mission of the Alliance is:
“. . . To protect U.S. constitutional rights, safeguarding U.S. sovereignty and promoting government transparency and accountability, by working with legislators nationwide on policies and initiatives.”
The Alliance seeks “to defend free speech, preserve and promote civil and human rights, maintain the integrity and supremacy of US and state constitutions, and aid and promote public safety.”
Among its allies in furtherance of this mission is the non-partisan IRC 503 (c) (3) public policy educational outreach organization, the Washington, DC-based Center for Security Policy (CSP).
In furtherance of the Alliance mission, it has sponsored several pieces of model legislation. They include:
• American Laws for American Courts (ALAC)
• Free Speech Defense Act (FSDA), “Rachel’s Law”
• See Something; Say Something Act (SSSSA)
• Terrorism as Racketeering and State Felony (TRSF)
• Disclosure of Foreign Gifts to Higher Education Act (DFGHEA) and,
• Female Genital Mutilation Act (FGMA)
The architect of American Law for American Courts is attorney David Yerushalmi, Esq., General Counsel for CSP, a noted expert and pro bono litigator on Sharia Islamic law matters. In January 2012 Yerushalmi and Co-counsel Robert Muise from the Thomas More Law Center formed the pro-bono American Freedom Law Center. ALAC was designed to protect Americans against foreign laws and legal doctrines such as Sharia that suborn Constitutional freedom guarantees. ALAC has been enacted in Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana and Tennessee; it is currently pending in eight additional states during the 2013 legislative sessions. On February 21, 2013, the Florida House Judiciary Committee voted 11 - 2 in favor of the Florida version of ALAC, HB 351 (Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases). The bill now goes to a vote by the Florida House of Representatives.
The FSDA is a state level version of the Federal “Rachel’s Law” passed by Congress in 2010. It is-named for Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of the book, Funding Evil , who was subject to a "Tourist Libel" decision in the London law courts brought by late Saudi businessman, Sheik Khalid bin Mahfouz, for allegations about his funding terrorism. The late bin Mahfouz‘s sister was one of the wives of the late al-Qaeda founder, Osama bin Laden, assassinated in Abbatobid, Pakistan in May 2011. Rachel’s Law is directed at providing free speech defenses for journalists and publishers against libel matters brought in foreign jurisdictions of convenience and used to penalize publications and disclosures of investigations. Versions of Rachel’s Law have been enacted in New York, California, Illinois, Florida, Utah, Louisiana and Tennessee.
SSSSA derives from a Federal bill introduced in Congress during the 112th Session 2011. It is modeled after the John Doe/Jan Doe Federal legislation arising for the Flying Imams case in 2006. It was further refined for protection of law officers and first responders in the Act to Protect First Responders Fighting Terrorism originally published in 2008 by the New English Review. It provides for defense against civil liability Lawfare by Muslim advocacy groups. The title See Something, Say Something came from a New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority campaign in conjunction with the NYPD that urged citizens to report possible criminal terrorism activities. That campaign was later adopted by the US Department of Homeland Security and a number of states.
TRSF is an endeavor to subject enablers of home grown terrorism in the US to civil litigation under state RICO statutes. It was first introduced in the Arkansas legislature advocated by Daris Long, the father of the late Army Pvt. Andrew Long. Pvt. Long was murdered in an attack at a US Army recruiting center in a Little Rock mall on June 1, 2009 by Carlos Bledsoe/Abdulhakim Muhammad. Bledsoe/Muhammad was converted to Islam by a Nashville Imam while a student at Tennessee State University. He later trained in Yemen allegedly with the late American born Sheik Anwar al-Awlaki of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This was the first act of home grown terrorism following 9/11. See the documentary Losing our Sons produced by Americans for Peace and Tolerance.
DFGHEA is an attempt to produce more transparency in reporting of foreign grants to public higher education institutions at the state level by foreign governments, institutions and individuals. Foreign funding sources, especially from predominately Muslim Middle East sources have been accused of fostering anti-Semitic, anti US foreign policy doctrine and insinuation of Sharia blasphemy codes at public universities. Such statutes have been introduced in New York, Utah and Louisiana.
FGMA is a recent model law developed by the Alliance with the objective of criminalizing female genital mutilation (FGM) in America condoned by either custom or under Sharia Islamic doctrine. A version of the Alliance model (HB2217 - Creating the crime of female genital mutilation and setting the penalty) was introduced in the Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice in the Kansas House of Representatives on February 5, 2013 by State Representative Peggy Mast of Emporia. Rep. Mast was the driving force behind the enactment of the Kansas ALAC law passed in the 2012 legislative session in Topeka. The Kansas and Alabama delegations at the 2012 GOP national convention were instrumental in introducing an ALAC plank for the party platform that was unanimously passed by a voice vote. The Kansas FGM bill would make violation of the proposed law a level 3 felony under Kansas law.
Against this background we interviewed Christopher W. Holton, Vice President for Outreach of the CSP on ALAC, its prospects for passage in pending jurisdictions and other initiatives of the Alliance. He directs the Center's Divest Terror Initiative and Shariah Risk Due Diligence Program.
Jerry Gordon: Christopher Holton thank you for consenting to this interview.
Christopher Holton: Thank you for the opportunity.
Gordon: What is Sharia?
Holton: Sharia is an all-encompassing code of life for Muslims which forms the basis of contemporary interpretation of Islamic scripture. It covers everything in Islam. It covers what I would say to you if you sneeze, on the lower end of the spectrum; and on the upper end of the spectrum it covers the conditions under which an Islamic state would go to war. So, it is a theological-legal-political military doctrine and it is the goal of both violent and civilizational jihad groups around the world. If you read the doctrine of Al Qaeda and Hamas and organizations like that, their goal is to rule by Sharia law. That is the exact same goal as the Muslim Brotherhood which purports to be non-violent. Nevertheless their goal is the same - to impose God's law on the world. So Sharia is essentially the enemy threat doctrine.
Gordon: How are Sharia and other transnational laws in conflict with the U.S. Constitution?
Holton: The U.S. Constitution especially under the Bill of Rights, the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution, has a unique set of rights that are considered, to have come from God, which are the rights of the people and they are truly unique around the world. Things like Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Expression covered under the First Amendment. Your Right to Bear Arms in the Second Amendment, Due Process, Equal Protection; these types of rights are unique. Many foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines, including Sharia law, as practiced around the world are in direct contravention of these rights. They do not exist. Many, foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines, certainly in places like Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Iran, which are ruled by Sharia law do not have these rights. When court cases come to the United States involving the laws of countries like those, there are inevitable conflicts with the U.S. Constitution.
Gordon: How have cases involving Sharia been able to enter the state courts?
Holton: What generally happens in the field of family law involves some type of conflict that has arisen such as a divorce or child custody case. It happens when people get married or enter into an agreement in a foreign country and then come here. These matters sometimes come into a U.S. Court and one of the parties then insists on using a foreign law or foreign legal doctrine in a U.S. Court. Requests for a U.S. Court to apply a foreign law to adjudicate a conflict very often involves someone's constitutional rights being trampled in the process. This is the same thing that has occurred and marched a lot further along in Western Europe. The field of family law is the field through which foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines such as Sharia embed themselves into a native legal system. Often the native legal system does not know how to handle these things. Now we have Sharia law courts operating openly in the United Kingdom. As many as 85 of these courts are operating openly and they have the full authority of English common law in the United Kingdom. We have seen reports out of Germany of a shadow Sharia court system operating in the mosques in Germany. Most recently, an article came out in which Spain essentially acceded to Sharia law by guaranteeing to the country of Morocco that any children adopted out of Morocco and sent to Spain will be raised as Muslims. If you adopt a child in Spain that happens to be from Morocco you no longer have a choice as to what religion that child will be raised under because of this agreement that Spain has made with Morocco. These are examples of how Sharia finds its way into Western legal systems. Western legal systems have not really understood how to deal with this and it's also the case in the United States. If you look at the various state laws in the United States, there is no set public policy about how to deal with foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines that come into state court systems. It's just not written. Judges are forced in these cases to make law and if you get a good judge you get a good outcome. However, if you get an uninformed judge you could get a very bad outcome. If the American Public Policy Alliance succeeds at its goal then the public policy of the various states would be established which is the proper role of the legislative branch. The Judiciary is not supposed to be making law. Thus, this is an attempt in the United States to deal with this situation before it gets out of hand as it has in Western Europe.
Gordon: How many cases involving Sharia law in state courts have been adjudicated and what were the outcomes upon appeal?
Holton: This is an unknown. We were able last year at the Center for Security Policy to conduct a brief analysis of 50 cases in 23 states. That was not an exhaustive list. We are in the process of updating that report. We have found additional cases. On the state level, only appeals court cases are published and very often they are only published two or three years after the fact. Trial court level cases at the State level are rarely published, so there is no real way of knowing how many cases have appeared at the trial court level and not been appealed. There is just no record of it. There is no way to tell. We know that there have been cases at the appeals court level in the various states. We are in the process of conducting additional research however; the answer to your question at this point is still a great unknown. We know of dozens of cases. Even American Muslim jurists and lawyers report as many as 100 cases, so Sharia decisions are happening in the United States. To what extent is really not knowable at this point.
Gordon: Why was the American Public Policy Alliance founded and what is its mission and activities?
Holton: The American Public Policy Alliance is an IRC 501 (c) (4) organization whose chair is attorney Stephen M. Gele. They are an ally of the Center for Security Policy. The Alliance was founded several years ago with the mission of preserving America's unique constitutional system of liberties including our Judeo Christian values. The flagship legislation that the Alliance is famous for is American Laws for American Courts (ALAC). However, they also work on a variety of initiatives. In addition to ALAC you may be familiar with Rachel's Law. The Alliance has developed an expanded version of Rachel's Law called the Free Speech Defense Act which is currently active in several states. The Alliance uncovered a loophole in the Federal Free Speech Act which essentially makes it almost useless. Most people do not know about that. The Free Speech Defense Act is becoming very important on the State level because of the renewed efforts by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic leaders around the world to attack free speech and free expression on behalf of Islam. Another issue that the Alliance works on is the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) where they've been involved in legislation and we have worked with them in educating the public in on that issue. Last year in Louisiana a landmark bill was passed which was probably the best prohibition against FGM anywhere in the United States. That same legislation is currently up before the Kansas Legislature. It was authored by State Representative Peggy Mast who was one of the co-author of the Kansas version of ALAC last year. She told me that she talked to a doctor in Kansas who said that he personally knows of about fifty cases of FGM that have occurred in Kansas. So this is a problem that has come into the United States. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has published a document in which they claim that FGM is nowhere associated with any religion which is of course completely false. It is documented in Sharia law texts. Sharia law scholars such as Yusuf Al-Qaradawi have issued opinions and fatwas about it. For the U.S. Government to put out misinformation on the issue has been most unhelpful.
The Alliance also works on Iran divestment legislation which has been a priority at the state level for the Center for Security Policy since 2004. There is currently such legislation pending in Mississippi. One of the more important efforts by Alliance chair Stephen M. Gelé, Esq. in the past two years has been the state level counter-terrorism legislation. The state level counter-terrorism statutes have been placed under the RICO statutes in the various states. This is an extremely useful tool, and probably the future flagship legislation of the Alliance. We need our allied organizations to get behind those state level counter-terrorism statutes under RICO. The laws allows for much stiffer criminal penalties which is important but also it provides for civil causes of action, so that there is an incentive for plaintiff's attorneys to go after those who provide material support for terrorism. We have a bill that is modeled after that currently operating in the State of Arkansas. The reason that it started in the State of Arkansas was it was spearheaded by Daris Long. Daris Long was featured in the documentary Losing our Sons. It was his son, Private Andy Long, who was killed outside of a Little Rock recruiting center on June 1, 2009 and was the subject of that movie. There was no State level counter-terrorism statute like this in Arkansas at the time. We are moving forward with that legislation in Arkansas and other states as well. In the future those who provide material support for terrorists such as Carlos Bledsoe, who became Abdulhakim Muhammad, would be subject to litigation. Bledsoe/Muhammad didn’t become an Islamic terrorist on his own. When he left Memphis, travelled to Nashville, was converted to Islam and sent to a terrorist training camp in Yemen someone facilitated that process. That person or organization should be subject to civil liability to the greatest extent possible in addition to criminal liability. The reason we need this RICO provision at the State is because our Federal Government has been reluctant to pursue these as terrorism crimes. They pursue them as anything else but terrorism. We have seen this at Fort Hood. We saw it at Little Rock and a more recent case also occurred in Manhattan where a State level counter-terrorism statute was used to convict a jihadist in New York. The Federal Government for one reason or another in its infinite wisdom had chosen not to charge the individual involved with terrorism. We have seen reluctance by the Federal Government to do its job. Therefore it is incumbent upon the states to pick up the torch and wage this battle in the courts.
Gordon: What are the objectives and principle provisions of American Laws for American Courts (ALAC)?
Holton: The objectives and principals of ALAC are basically to see that a state court will not apply a foreign law or foreign legal doctrine if the application of that foreign law or foreign legal doctrine in the case at hand would result in the violation of any of the parties' fundamental Constitutional Rights. This is not a blanket ban on foreign law. It is not even a ban on Sharia law. It is a protection of individual fundamental Constitutional Rights. That is what American Laws for American Courts is all about.
Gordon: How does ALAC avoid accusations that it is unnecessary and duplicative of equal protection and public policy provisions of U.S. and State Constitutional Law?
Holton: Well that's a good question. ALAC is necessary because we have seen over and over again cases involving foreign law and foreign legal doctrines appearing in U.S. Courts. Those who say that because we have Article VI of the U.S. Constitution we don't need this are just ignorant about what is actually happening in our court systems. Article VI clearly is not protecting the fundamental Constitutional Rights of our citizens and residents in the United States in against foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines. If it was, these cases wouldn't be coming up and they are, by the dozens.
Gordon: Does ALAC contravene contractual law in the U.S.?
Holton: No, in fact there is a specific provision that recognizes the right to contract. However, we should also point out that the right to contract is not absolute. Therefore, it is a proper role of Government to regulate the right to contract just as Government regulates free speech. For instance, you and I have a right to free speech but we can't yell fire in a crowded theater. That is not covered under free speech. The right to contract is limited as well. If you and I happen to enter into a contract that imposes some condition on you, which would violate your Constitutional Rights, a state court, should not be able to impose that on you. The state should not be in the business of violating someone's Constitutional Rights. If you and I wanted to contract with each other based on some foreign law or foreign legal doctrine and that involves the violation of some Constitutional Right we have an alternative. We can go to that foreign jurisdiction and adjudicate it. However, we should not be able to go to a state court and impose that foreign law in such a way that it would violate your fundamental Constitutional Rights.
Gordon: Does ALAC violate U.S. Treaties?
Holton: By definition it cannot. Federal Treaties are by definition Federal law and State law cannot trump Federal law. There is also a provision within ALAC that spells this out in detail and essentially says that this law shall not be applied in any way that would violate any Federal Treaty.
Gordon: How does ALAC protect Americans against encroachment of First Amendment guaranteed rights to criticize religion in contrast to Sharia blasphemy codes espoused by The Organization of Islamic Cooperation?
Holton: American Laws for American Courts and The Free Speech Defense Act both cover this area. They protect fundamental Constitutional Rights of Americans in these cases. Let’s say a Saudi Prince decides to sue you for something you wrote in the New English Review. He sues you in a foreign jurisdiction that has the liable and slander laws turned on their head which is very common and then he wins because of the nature of those foreign systems. He comes to a court in Florida and asks that this be awarded based on the foreign ruling. These forms of legislation would prevent a state court from applying that foreign law in violation of your First Amendment Rights. That is an example of how ALAC would work. It has become particularly important because of this renewed effort by the OIC, the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Leaders around the world to impose restrictions on free speech and free expression in the Western world. What many people don't know, however, is that the method through which they do this isn't just by holding meetings and making proclamations. The chief method through which they try to suppress free speech is they actually conduct something called Lawfare where, because they are funded by billions of petro dollars they can afford to sue. They do and that's how they try to suppress free speech. They actually have gotten books burned. There is an excellent book called, Alms for Jihad that was published several years ago. I have a copy of it but good luck getting a copy of it. You know why? Because the Saudis intimidated Oxford University Press that published it with lawsuits and got the Oxford University Press to recall the books and have them burned. Alms for Jihad has a wealth of information about how Islamic charities have funded jihad. You can't find that book anymore. You're lucky if you can. You have to get it from a rare book dealer and it is extremely expensive and it's not because the information in there is not accurate. It is because of Lawfare. They have so much money with which to conduct lawsuits around the world, in jurisdictions that make it almost impossible for someone who writes a book on that subject matter to defend themselves. For instance if you are going to go defend yourself in a trial and the burden of proof is on you given something you wrote in the New English Review was true in the discovery phase you may have to reveal sources. Now, imagine that. You have to reveal sources in a book like Alms for Jihad which has information on terrorism financing so you run the risk of having people lose their lives. That is the way it has worked through Lawfare. That is why we need protection like ALAC and also the Free Speech Defense Act.
Gordon: Where has ALAC legislation been introduced and enacted into law?
Holton: ALAC has now been enacted in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona and Kansas. It is currently pending in several states including Alabama, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Washington, and Oklahoma. The Free Speech Defense Act is being pursued in Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Gordon: Oklahoma held a referendum on an anti-Sharia constitutional amendment. What was the outcome and how did it prove the merits of ALAC?
Holton: A few years ago there was legislation passed as a Constitutional Amendment in Oklahoma that said "no Sharia in Oklahoma." It passed with over 70% of the vote. The problem was it was flawed from both a constitutional as well as from a practical standpoint. From a constitutional standpoint there are problems with it based on equal protection and the establishment clauses of the Constitution. From a practical standpoint it is even more flawed. Here's the problem. Let us say hypothetically that a year from now a divorce case comes up involving a Muslim couple and the lawyer for the husband might claim that the lawyer for the wife is trying to impose or trying to use some form of Sharia law in the case. Of course the lawyer for the wife is going to deny this so it's up to the judge to decide if this is Sharia or not. The judge more than likely hasn't gone to Sharia school but he knows about this law that passed in Oklahoma said "no Sharia in Oklahoma" so he has to figure this out. Where is he going to have to go to figure it out? Where could he go to find out if this involves Sharia? The only place he can go is to a Sharia scholar, perhaps the Imam at the local mosque. From a practical standpoint the very law that was designed to keep Sharia out of our legal system would have resulted in a Sharia scholar facilitating a decision inside the court system, just the opposite of the intended effect. So from a practical standpoint it was flawed. The law passed in Oklahoma was struck down in the Federal Courts. Now the Alliance is pushing ALAC to protect the fundamental individual Constitutional Rights of Sooners against foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines in general, not just Sharia.
Gordon: What were the circumstances behind the four states that enacted ALAC?
Holton: I would say that each was unique. Those states had strong bill sponsors and they all had different aspects when it came to ALAC. For instance, Tennessee has a large Muslim population now, especially Nashville. The Federal Refugee Resettlement Program has brought a sizeable Muslim population to Tennessee and along with it issues involving Sharia are not unheard of. Arizona is a border state so it's not just Sharia that might come up in Arizona. There are foreign laws that come up in Arizona that have nothing to do with Sharia but that need to be addressed for there was nothing in the law that said what you are supposed to do in these cases. Kansas is similar to Tennessee in that regard. In Louisiana there were legislators with foresight who saw this as a potential future problem and assumed leadership to prevent this from happening in Louisiana. Each state has unique circumstances.
Gordon: Subsequent to the enactment of ALAC in these states, can you cite specific instances where it was used in matters brought in state courts?
Holton: Yes. In Kansas within weeks of ALAC being enacted in Kansas, it was applied in a case involving a Sharia law dowry. The judge said, we don't apply foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines if someone's fundamental Constitutional Rights will be violated and that was exactly what was happening in that case and as a result, it was thrown out.
Gordon: What caused the failure of the Florida Legislature to pass ALAC in 2012 and what are the prospects for possible passage in the upcoming 2013 session?
Holton: This is an excellent question, because there is a great deal of misinformation about what happened in Florida in 2012. What happened in Florida in 2012 had nothing to do with the efforts of organizations like Hamas, CAIR or the United Voices for America lead by Ahmed Bedier in Florida. They took credit for the fact that ALAC didn't pass there but they had nothing to do with it nor did it have much to do with the Anti Defamation League which has opposed ALAC. They have testified against the bill in Florida and each time they have testified it was subsequently passed because their legal arguments are in fact intellectually bankrupt. What happened in Florida was the ALAC bill overwhelmingly passed the House and was the way to the Senate floor. However, internal inside baseball politics in the Florida State Senate resulted in the bill simply not coming up for a vote in the last three days of the session. It had nothing to do with the merits of the bill. It had nothing to do with the issue. It had nothing to do with the efforts of any organizations pro or con. It was all based on other issues in Florida which caused conflicts between some of the Senators involved and American Laws for American Courts simply became victimized by that internal political conflict within the State Senate in Florida. It was unfortunate that at that time the leadership of the State Senate in Florida was not strong enough and didn't have the foresight to bring the bill up for vote because it would have passed overwhelmingly. There is no doubt. We have new leadership in Florida. State Senator Don Gaetz is the Senate President now. He in the past has been a supporter of our efforts in fact his son Representative Gaetz in the House, is a current co-sponsor and was one of the first co-sponsors of ALAC in Florida. We are very hopeful that we will have better prospects in Florida in 2013. The ALAC bill has already made it through the entire committee process in the Florida House and is ready to go to the floor when the session starts up on 27th of February. In Alabama it has passed the Judiciary Committee with overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the Senate and made it onto the calendar in late February 2013 in Alabama. The House bill is now moving forward in Alabama as well. We expect to have hearings soon in Texas. We are very optimistic that we are going to get ALAC passed in multiple states in the 2013 sessions.
Gordon: The Republican Convention in Tampa in 2012 approved a plank supporting ALAC. How did that occur?
Holton: It was the result of the continued efforts of our allies and supporters in the State of Kansas. We had an incredible, tenacious, diligent bill sponsor in Kansas State Representative Peggy Mast who was very well respected in their Legislature. They were very proud that they passed ALAC in Kansas. The Secretary of State of the State of Kansas was one of the delegates to the Republican Convention and it was he who put it in as a plank in Tampa. He was also ably aided by Senator Cam Ward who is the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the State of Alabama. It was put in as a plank in the platform at the National Republican Convention in Tampa and passed on a voice vote without controversy. It was largely due to the efforts of the Kansas delegation.
Gordon: What are some of the key lessons that the Alliance has learned about gathering local support and sponsors for ALAC Legislation in State Legislatures?
Holton: There is absolutely no doubt that there are many allied organizations, both grassroots and otherwise who have worked on this legislation in particular. We here at the Center for Security Policy have done education and outreach on the broader issues. However, when it comes to the passage of this legislation support from national security, grassroots organizations, tea party organizations, conservative organizations, Judeo Christian organizations around the country have been absolutely key. Groups like The Eagle Forum, Act for America, The Oak Initiative, and many tea party organizations have all been instrumental. Local Republican Women's Clubs across the country have been instrumental in getting this done, as well. It is a broad base of support that has enabled the legislation to pass. There is a lot more work to be done. It's important to point out that ALAC is not a silver bullet. There is not a silver bullet in this fight. This is just one piece of legislation in a broad menu of legislation that is needed to deal with this issue of Sharia and Jihad in the United States.
Gordon: What additional states does the Alliance view as likely prospects for ALAC's passage in 2013?
Holton: We have ALAC active in Florida, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa, and State of Washington. We also have some of these states considering Free Speech Defense Act Legislation. We have state level counter-terrorism legislation that's working in some of these states as well. We will also have legislation coming up in Louisiana dealing with charter schools and frivolous lawsuits aimed at those who abide by the Government's counter terrorism effort to adopt "see something, say something" legislation. The problem with that has been in the past when you and I "see something and say something" organizations like CAIR have filed lawsuits against us so legislation is needed to protect against that. It has already passed in the state of New York and it's going to considered around the country passing in other states as well.
Gordon: Why have civil rights and Muslim advocacy groups opposed ALAC despite protections it affords Muslim women and children?
Holton: There is no good answer to this question. The ACLU has opposed ALAC and the arguments they have presented have been intellectually bankrupt. They have claimed ALAC interferes with international treaties knowing full well that it does not. They have in the past, endorsed the Free Speech Defense Act. In the process of endorsing the Free Speech Defense Act they have stated overtly that U.S. Constitutional Rights must not be trampled by foreign laws in our court systems. They have made that statement in their policy papers. Yet when ALAC is presented in state legislatures, they oppose it. It's completely hypocritical. That's the ACLU. The Anti-Defamation League has claimed that this is going to make Jewish divorces illegal. It is preposterous. We have two very prominent national rabbis who have endorsed American Laws for American Courts. They both say that it is preposterous what the ADL has said. Incidentally one of them is a lawyer who is now a practicing rabbi who has endorsed it. When it comes to Muslim organizations like CAIR and United Voices for America, quite frankly the reason they oppose is that they clearly recognize that Sharia very often runs contra to fundamental Constitutional Rights in the United States. They recognize that when we stand up for our individual fundamental Constitutional Rights it is a direct threat to Sharia law and that's why they don't like it. The problem is that in this country our Constitution is what we live by whether we are of any particular faith, whether we are Hare Krishna, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, it doesn't matter. We all have the same rights and we need to protect those Constitutional Rights. They are the guardian of religious freedom. Our Constitution is the one document in the world that is the best guardian of religious freedom. To oppose American Laws for American Courts is simply to oppose the U.S. Constitution and frankly to impose a foreign legal doctrine on our legal system which is abhorrent to it.
Gordon: When might ALAC legislation be introduced in the U.S. Congress?
Holton: I don't know the answer to that question. I honestly don't think it will happen anytime soon. The culture and environment in Washington D.C. is such that this type of legislation just wouldn't get anywhere. The situation up there is entirely too toxic and if it did find a way to pass the House of Representatives it would be stillborn when it got to the Senate. If by some miracle it got through the Senate, Barack Obama would never sign it so it would have to be a veto proof majority. So I can't say that the prospects for American Laws for American Courts on the Federal level are good. Hopefully that will change in the future but I don't see the prospect right now.
Gordon: I want to thank you for this rather comprehensive, engrossing and very informative interview.
Holton: Jerry, it is I who owe you thanks and our appreciation for taking the time with these thoughtful questions and conducting this thorough interview.
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