After languishing in the House Calendars committee for several weeks — and looking as if the clock might run out on this ill-considered bill — Rep. Leo Berman’s anti-Sharia law measure (HB 911) made a surprise appearance on the House floor on Monday. The language of Berman’s bill was offered as a floor amendment by Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, to the Governor’s “emergency” tort reform bill (HB 274). The amendment passed easily with minimal debate, and since the tort reform bill passed as well, it now moves on to the Senate State Affairs committee.
In stark contrast to the strident, alarmist rhetoric of the committee hearing — and Rep. Berman’s comments in the press — the words “Sharia” and “Muslim” were never even uttered on the House floor during debate. Rep. Hilderbran presented the amendment as an uncontroversial clarification that international laws cannot be considered by the courts when such law contravenes the U.S. Constitution. But just as in the earlier committee discussion, when pressed to explain what sorts of problems this legislation would remedy, its promoters were stumped. Consider this telling exchange between Rep. Hilderbran and Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas:
Anchia: I’m aware of no cases where the U.S. Constitution as it is applied by U.S. courts is not supreme.
Hilderbran: There’s some crazy judges every once in a while that do some crazy things…
Anchia: Well, then they get reversed on appeal.
But in this matter, apparently absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Berman and his ilk are convinced that somewhere, someone, right this very moment is convincing a judge to throw out our entire system of laws and force us all to live under mandatory Sharia law. And when you know it in your gut, you don’t need proof.
It struck me earlier today how closely the entire discussion of Sharia law tracks the debate over “sanctuary cities” in the House this week. Both are, at bottom, rooted in a mistrust and prejudice against a certain group of people. And despite the lack of a documented threat or problem (there are no sanctuary cities in Texas), proponents argue the state MUST act proactively to defend against the possibility of a threat.
But from where I sit, it just looks like targeting a group of Texans for their religious belief or the color of their skin.