Fabricate facts. Testify to threats. Take a stand against problems that don't exist. That's the three-step tango to introducing bills in state legislatures.
When some Christians refuse to check their facts and control their unwarranted fears while addressing non-existent problems, all Christians have their credibility questioned in a pluralistic society, Parham writes.
Take Texas state Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler), who introduced a bill to ban Shariah law from use in state courts.
No stranger to extremism, Berman, a member of Tyler's Christ Episcopal Church, wants to prevent the spread of Islamic law in the Lone Star state.
"We all know what Shariah law does to women – women must wear burqas, women are subject to humiliation and into controlled marriages under Shariah law," said Berman, according to Associated Press. "We want to prevent it from ever happening in Texas."
He testified: "This is now happening all over Europe ... It's being done in Dearborn, Mich., right now. It's being done in Dearborn, Mich., because of a large population of Middle Easterners. And the judges in Dearborn are using and allowing to be used Shariah law."
Asked the source of his information, Berman said, "I heard it on a radio station here on my way in to the Capitol one day."
Yes. He heard it on the radio. He admitted to not knowing anything about Dearborn, although he referenced Dearborn six times in his testimony to state legislators.
"It's not just happening in Dearborn," said Pat Carlson, president of Texas Eagle Forum.
"This is something happening in other states," she told the legislative panel. "It has got tentacles in our country."
Texans are not the only ones who fabricate facts, testify to threats and take stands against problems that don't exist.
Missourians dance the three-step shuffle.
State Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Pacific) sponsored an anti-Shariah law bill, banning its use in state courts.
"In some of the northeastern states – there's an issue in Michigan right now, where the same situation has arisen because foreign law is playing a role in the courts. So it's really something we're doing so our citizens can have confidence that we're not going to have those problems here," said Curtman.
Asked to cite examples of foreign law being used to supersede state law, Curtman replied: "I don't have the specifics with me right now but if you go to – the web address kind of escapes my mind right now. Any Google search on international law used in the state courts in the U.S. is going to turn up some cases for you."
Google it. Yes. Google it.
That's a sure-fire, fact-checking way to verify the need for state laws – for a state legislator who is a member and an assistant youth director of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Wildwood, where his father is pastor.
Supported by Speaker of the House Stephen Tilley (R-Perry), Curtman's bill passed on a 102-51 vote.
The Herald reported that South Carolina state senators debated an anti-Shariah law bill in mid-April.
"None of the senators nor Kevin A. Hall, a Columbia attorney who testified in support of the bill, were aware of any examples in South Carolina where courts upheld sharia law over the U.S. Constitution," reported the paper.
"There are some localities around the country that have imposed sharia law in lieu of local laws," claimed the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Michael Fair (R-Greenville), a member of Faith Baptist Church, in January.
Fair apparently didn't feel the need to identify those localities.
Anti-Shariah bills have been introduced in as many as 13 different state legislatures.
Behind these bills are fabricated facts and unwarranted fears advanced by a cottage industry of right-wing Christian ideologues.
Retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin is part of that industry. He warned in February that Americans must choose between the U.S. Constitution and Shariah.
Chuck Norris is another evangelical co-conspirator. Norris is a Hollywood actor without credentials – other than having played a Texas Ranger
"[T]oo many Americans don't know or understand how it [Shariah law] threatens the very fabrics of our republic. So I've decided to do a series on how Shariah is seeping into American society," wrote Norris on WorldNetDaily.com, an extremist website.
After "categorically" stating that he is not "an Islamaphobe," Norris cites three pieces of evidence that Islamic law is seeping into America.
One piece of evidence is that "Alabama is joining a growing list of states that are considering outlawing the use of foreign and religious laws, specifically Muslim Shariah law, in their courts."
From what we know about state legislators in Texas, Missouri and South Carolina, what kind of evidence is Norris offering with his Alabama example?
State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Cottondale) introduced an anti-Shariah law bill earlier this year.
"But no one – not even Sen. Gerald Allen, who sponsored the bill – can point to examples of Muslims trying to have Islamic law recognized in Alabama courts," reported the Anniston Star.
"It's not about what's happening right now," said Allen, a deacon at Gilgal Baptist Church. "I'm thinking about 10 years down the road, 20, 30, 40. Time has an effect on these things, and I'm thinking about the future."
When the newspaper reporter asked Allen to define Shariah law, Allen replied, "I don't have my file in front of me."
Chuck Norris – Texas Ranger – cites as evidence of Islamic law seeping into America a situation in Alabama -- Alabama, where a state senator can provide neither real evidence of state courts using Shariah nor a definition of Shariah.
When some Christians refuse to check their facts and control their unwarranted fears while addressing non-existent problems, all Christians have their credibility questioned in a pluralistic society.
Our faith teaches that God is neither the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) nor a giver of the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
So, why do Christian leaders fabricate facts and feed fear?
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.
Editor's note: Click here to learn more about "Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims," an EthicsDaily.com documentary showing how some Baptists and Muslims in the United States have sought and found common ground.