Bigotry Costs At Least $303,333

Image of state Capitol and church

What does an act of bigotry cost these days in Oklahoma?

Well, at least $303,333, which is how much Oklahoma taxpayers will have to fork over to pay legal fees to attorneys that successfully argued that the state’s 2010 edict forbidding the use of Sharia and international law in courts is unconstitutional.

In 2010, Oklahoma voters overwhelming approved a measure placed on the ballot by legislators that “makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases,” which was, of course, already the law in the first place. But it also specifically banned the use of international law and Sharia or Islamic law. The measure passed by an approximate 70 to 30 percent margin.

The problem with the measure was two-fold. State and federal law is already the law of the land so the measure obviously was gratuitous and targeting Sharia law was an obvious specific act of discrimination, violating the rights of Muslims here in Oklahoma.

A federal court eventually ruled the measure unconstitutional after a lawsuit was filed against it. U.S. District Court Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange recently granted a request for the attorney fees for the plaintiffs. The $303,333 figure doesn’t include the amount of money spent by Oklahoma’s attorney general’s office to defend the law. According to a media report, the office declined to give an estimate of the legal costs in defending the discriminatory measure.

Legislators who pushed the bill were never able to cite one Oklahoma court case in which Sharia law was used instead of federal and state law. The measure was simply a glaring and bigoted attack on Islam, sanctioned by nearly 700,000 voters.

One of the unfortunate things about this case is that those who voted against the myopic hate and bigotry will be held just as financially liable as those voters who apparently got some visceral thrill in bashing one of the largest religions on the planet.

Speaking of bigotry, legislators this year are apparently going to decline funding to complete the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. The uncompleted project serves as another symbol of this state’s racist history. Add to that history the anti-President Obama hysteria fueled by conservatives over the course of his presidency, throw in state Rep. Sally Kern’s continuing attacks on gay people and the unflattering picture gets completed. The bottom line is that beneath the state’s sugary welcoming exterior there lurks a cauldron of hatred, paranoia and fear.

All this does matter in terms of the state’s national and international image, whatever the impact, and it lowers the quality of life here for people who believe in diversity and tolerance.