Public Testimony in Idaho: Fighting Anti-Muslim Bills with Inclusivity, Hope, and Courage

The Idaho Legislature is currently considering an “American and Idaho Laws for Idaho Courts” bill, which its sponsor, Rep. Eric Redman (R-Athol) claims to be necessary to regulate Idaho courts’ use and recognition of foreign law. This is the third consecutive year Redman has introduced this bill in Idaho, which is rooted in the unfounded idea that Muslims seek to impose Islamic Sharia law on U.S. courts. Even though the bill avoids direct reference to Sharia law, its intent is widely seen as an effort to target only one religious group—people of the Muslim faith.

On February 15th, 2018, Steve Martin, Pride Foundation Regional Philanthropy Officer in Idaho, gave testimony against this bill.

Good morning. My name is Steve Martin. I am a longtime resident of Idaho, and also the regional officer in Idaho for Pride Foundationa 30-plus-year-old Northwest-based organization that as a part of our mission, helps advocate for equality for all through education, and the annual awarding of academic scholarships and community grants.

I am here in opposition to House Bill 419. My reasons start with the proposed bill being a solution in search of a problem since the First Amendment already prohibits U.S. courts from imposing religious law as civil law, meaning this measure is completely unfounded and not necessary.

But what I find most troubling about this bill is that, despite language that states its intent is to protect Idahoans from the application of “foreign laws,” I fear the true intent and consequence will be to target only one religious grouppeople of the Muslim faith. And that, quite frankly, is discrimination. It’s un-Americanand it’s un-Idahoan.

This bill feeds on growing anti-Muslim sentiments and rhetoric in this country to single out our Muslim neighbors, who we should remember have the same rights as all of us. It fans the flames of the “Us Versus Them” mentality, creating unfounded fear and division. We should be better than that. Idaho IS better than that.

At Pride Foundation, one of our guiding values is inclusivity. We strive for participation at all levels, embrace our differences, and challenge ourselves to end prejudice and oppressionsomething I’d like to think all of you also share as our state leaders. We are also guided by hope, courage, and the belief that mutual respect is something ALL of us deserve.

It is my hope that you will have the courage to see House Bill 419 for what it isone that promotes intolerance and prejudice, and that you will vote no on its passage. Thank you. 

Update: After 2 ½ hours of public hearing testimony on Feb. 15, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee voted to advance the legislation, House Bill 419, to the full House with a “do pass” recommendation. On Feb. 20, the Idaho House voted 44 to 24 to pass the bill, which now moves on to the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee, with an as-yet-undetermined public hearing likely in the coming weeks.

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