Arizona seeks to keep karma out of its courts?

Rod Meade Sperry investigates the new Arizona law that seeks to keep religious sectarian laws out of its courts, and how that includes karma.

Rod Meade Sperry
19 February 2011

Rod Meade Sperry investigates the new Arizona law that seeks to keep religious sectarian laws out of its courts, and how that includes karma.

Sounds like an Onion story, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. As James Ure of The Buddhist Blog writes today, Arizona has — seriously — proposed an act which would ban the evocation of karma in its court systems. According to Act SB 1026, “A court shall not use, implement, refer to or incorporate a tenet of any body of religious sectarian law into any decision, finding or opinion as controlling or influential authority.”

If you’re wondering where  — or how far — this is going, the answer may be found in how SB 1026 defines “religious sectarian law.”

The phrase refers to “any statute, tenet or body of law evolving within and binding a specific religious sect or tribe. Religious sectarian law includes Sharia law, Canon law, Halacha and karma but does not include any law of the United States or the individual states based on Anglo-American legal tradition and principles on which the United States was founded.”

Ure, in his commentary, tries to give backstory and context to explain why some might see this move as outrageous — or at least  unnecessary and paranoid:

One of the targets of this [post 9-11] fear of anything Islamic has come in the form of a wide-spread paranoia of Sharia law….

In brief, Sharia law is law based on the Islamic holy book, the Qur’an (koran). The Islamophobia is so rampant in America these days that states have taken to banning Sharia law in a preemptive move to prevent such law from taking root.  But the politicians of Arizona didn’t stop there. They wanted to make sure ALL non-Christian religious beliefs would have no influence in Arizona state law. This included banning karma, which I didn’t even know was possible considering karma is basically the idea of, “cause and effect” or causality.

Gavel To Gavel reports reports more on the usage of the bill:

2010 however is perhaps the first time a state legislature has tried to stop the use of karma by the courts (although it is not clear any courts are presently using it). Arizona’s HB 2379 and SB 1026 prohibits courts from implementing, referring or incorporating or using “a tenet of any body of religious sectarian law” and specifically includes sharia law, canon law, halacha, and karma. Decisions that make use of a body of religious sectarian law or foreign law are declared void and such usages declared to be grounds for impeachment. Moreover, the bills are not just targeting Arizona’s state courts; the same legislation declares these provisions apply to Federal courts sitting in diversity jurisdiction and requires any court that construes the statutes must do so in a way to confine the power of Congress and the federal judiciary.

Blogger Nathan of Dangerous Harvests shares an opinion in his post from today, “Arizona Attempts to Ban Karma, Sharia Law, and All Forms of Intelligence.”

Rod Meade Sperry. Photo by Megumi Yoshida, 2024

Rod Meade Sperry

Rod Meade Sperry is the editor of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Guide (published by Lion’s Roar), and the book A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his partner and their tiny pup, Sid.