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The Unintended Consequences of “Anti-Sharia” Laws, ctd.

May 24, 2011, 12:59 pm | Posted by Nick Sementelli

shariastealth.jpgTennessee’s Material Support to Designated Entities Act is a solution in search of a problem. What began as an “anti-sharia law” measure was turned into a vague prohibition against “foreign law” after the bill’s sponsor met with actual Muslim constituents.

That broadening, however, led to some new problems. As some Jewish groups warned, the vague language could potentially outlaw the practice of voluntary contract resolution under religious guidelines–a tradition practiced by Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups alike.

But that wasn’t the only case of potential unintended consequences. The second half of the bill focused on increasing state level anti-terrorism measures. But these changes included some pretty extreme incursions into civil liberties–like a provision allowing the governor to use secret evidence to convict alleged terrorist groups, and a policy presuming designated groups guilty until proven innocent.

These policies apparently didn’t strike the authors as problematic when directed at Muslims, but the new, less-specific focus of the bill finally raised some red flags. As Bob Smietana reports, some Tennessee conservatives re-discovered their small government roots:

Jon Campbell considers himself a loyal member of the tea party. The Kingsport, Tenn., man is a conservative Christian who wants the government to keep its hands off his wallet and his personal life. And that’s why, he said, a bill that originally targeted supporters of Islamic law is a bad idea for Tennessee. State officials could have used the bill to punish unpopular groups, he said.

Today, that’s Muslims, he said. Tomorrow, that could be the tea party. He pointed to a 2009 report by the Missouri Information Analysis Center, funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security, that labeled Ron Paul supporters as potential terrorists. “If you don’t like the ideas that someone supports — how is that illegal?” he said.

Though this is only a limited victory (the bill passed both houses after being amended to address some of the more egregious sections), it’s good to see some Tea Party members remember their libertarian roots. Though it would have been nicer to see these conservatives objecting to the bill on principle before it threatened to affect them personally.

Photo Credit: Dan Iggers/Flickr

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