In Virginia, JCRC lobbies against bill targeting ‘foreign law’


A bill making its way through Virginia’s state legislature would place restrictions on the consideration of foreign laws – and likely religious laws, as well — in the state’s courts. And it is drawing opposition from the Jewish community.

Stopping HB 825 was the top priority item for Jewish advocates who were in Richmond, Va., on Wednesday lobbying legislators for Jewish Social Advocacy Day, sponsored by an array of local Jewish communal groups.

While the bill’s text does not mention religion, critics — and some supporters — of the legislation view it as taking aim at Shariah, or Islamic religious law.

Among Jews there is fear that the legislation, which was moved forward on Monday by a Virginia House subcommittee, could potentially cause problems that would impact the Jewish community on issues related to religious arbitration.


“There certainly could be a problem from creating an overly broad definition of foreign laws that would impact the Jewish community and a wide range of other faith groups,” said Debra Linick, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington’s director for Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.

HB 825 would prohibit the Virginia’s courts and government agencies from drawing on foreign law to render decisions. It defines “foreign law” as “any constitution, law, legal code, or legal system that is established outside the jurisdiction of the United States, the District of Columbia, or the states or territories of the United States.”

Several states have passed or are considering similar laws. Oklahoma passed legislation that explicitly took aim at foreign laws and explicitly named Shariah.

On Jan. 10, a federal appeals court blocked implementation of the Oklahoma law, a ruling that was applauded by both the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.

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