The Honorable Judge Daniel Dawson
2000 E. Michigan Street
Orlando, FL 32806-4941
To The Honorable Judge Dawson:
The First Amendment speaks plainly and directly. Citizens of the United States are free to pursue their religious beliefs or, if they so choose, are free to ignore religious belief. That freedom is embedded in our way of life; it is not coincidental that religious liberty is mentioned before freedom of speech and assembly. Moreover, the Constitution makes transparently clear that an established church will not exist in this nation.
I state the obvious because as George Orwell noted at a moment of confusion the first duty of intelligent people is the restatement of the obvious. You, sir, are obliged to consider the case of Rifqa Bary, a young woman from Ohio, who left her Muslim faith and converted to Christianity. Such conversion is common practice in the United States and is doubtless a matter of personal conviction.
However, in Ms. Bary’s case, her conversion has put her life at risk. Apostasy is regarded as a capital offense in the Koran to be punished by death. Should you rule that family unification trumps religious freedom, there is the possibility Rifqa will be returned to her country of origin to face her imminent demise.
Recognizing this likely fate, she ran away from her Ohio home and parents, hoping that the Constitution in her adopted country would serve as protection. That, of course, may not be the case, which, in my judgment, would not only be a tragedy for Rifqa, but a tragedy for America.
Our common law history does not impose or allow for the imposition of Sharia in the land of the free. The founders understand the need for the separation of Church and State, notwithstanding the role religion plays as a guiding hand in state related matters. But they could not and would not countenance the integration of the two as demanded by Islam.
As a consequence, this case involves more than one youthful life; it represents a defense of our Constitution and our way of life. Just as a Christian can covert to Islam, a Muslim should be free to covert to Christianity whatever her parents think and whatever the Koran indicates.
To suggest anything else is to allow Islam to be superordinated over our law and tradition. If there was ever a time to assert our beliefs and customs, this is it. Americans are increasingly unsure about what this nation stands for. But there really isn’t ambiguity about this matter. Sharia is not our custom or our law, and you, sir, should not recognize it as dispositive in your legal judgment.
Rifqa’s cause should prevail because this recent immigrant is fighting for the most basic of American principles. She is our Joan of Arc, and I ardently hope you will recognize the need to assert traditional jurisprudential precedent in this case.
Herbert I. London