Trump security adviser pick Michael Flynn repeated wildly wrong claim about FL Democrats, Sharia law

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has been chosen by Donald Trump to be his national security adviser. He was pictured here in 2014 while testifying before a House committee. (Reuters)
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has been chosen by Donald Trump to be his national security adviser. He was pictured here in 2014 while testifying before a House committee. (Reuters)

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, tapped by Donald Trump to be his national security adviser, repeated a false claim that Florida Democratic senators voted to impose Islamic Sharia law in an August speech.

CNN broke the story about Flynn’s speech Nov. 22.

Here is the Florida portion of his speech at Ahavath Torah Congregation in Stoughton, Mass., on Aug. 23 (start at minute 28:40):

"Our country was built upon the foundation of Judeo-Christian principles, values, norms. We should fight this idea of this imposition of Sharia law into our system. And believe me, folks, it is happening.

All you have to do is go and look up something called 'the American laws for American courts.’ I don't know if it's happening up here in Massachusetts, it's happening in other states. I have had people in the media, mainstream media, say, 'oh, that's all a conspiracy, it's a lie.'

No, in the state Florida. The state of Florida, they have 36 senators at the state level. 36 senators at the state level. 12 of them are Democrats, the Republicans hold the majority in the Florida state senate. All 12 Democrats, all 12 Democrats voted to impose Shariah law at the local and state level. Now, it was beaten because the Republicans are in charge. I'm telling you, this is 'American laws for America's courts.'"

PolitiFact Florida fact-checked a similar claim by bloggers in 2014 and ruled it Pants on Fire.

Sharia law is a wide-ranging set of rules that govern aspects of Islamic life, including religious practice, daily living, crime and financial dealings. Muslims differ on its interpretation.  

At root of the Florida legislation in question was a dispute between a Tampa Islamic center and some of its ousted trustees. In ruling on the case in March 2011, a circuit court judge cited Islamic law, sparking outcry from conservatives. That month, two Republican state lawmakers, Sen. Alan Hays and Rep. Larry Metz, announced they would push for a bill to ban foreign law in Florida courts.

After several failed efforts, the bill that passed in 2014 — SB 386, "Application of Foreign Law in Courts" — was watered down compared to previous versions.

The bill didn’t specifically mention Sharia law. But it allowed a judge in family-law cases only to agree to apply foreign law as long as it doesn’t contradict public policy in the United States. In reality, the bill doesn’t change existing law, which already allowed judges such discretion.

For example, if a couple signed a prenuptial agreement in Argentina and later gets a divorce in Florida, a Miami judge could decide to apply Argentina’s law in the divorce case here, Eduardo Palmer, a Coral Gables lawyer who serves on the legislative committee of the Florida Bar’s international law section, told PolitiFact in 2014.

Legislators who voted against the bill argued that it was unnecessary and amounted to an attack on Muslims.

Rep. Jim Waldman, a Broward Democrat, told the House, "This bill, this proposal, stems directly from a hatred of Muslims. It's caught on across the country and many other state legislatures have dealt with this, and I find it reprehensible."

The Senate approved the bill 24-14, with all the votes in opposition coming from Democrats. The House approved the bill 78-40, with a majority of Democrats voting "no." (House Democrats who voted "yes" included Daphne Campbell of Miami, Betty Reed of Tampa and Hazelle Rogers of Lauderdale Lakes.)

Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law in May 2014.

A couple other excerpts from Flynn’s speech:

  • "We are facing another 'ism,' just like we faced Nazism, and fascism, and imperialism and communism. This is Islamism, it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet and it has to be excised."

  • Regarding President Barack Obama: "This is an individual who has an ideology, and he has apologized for all the ill will of the United States of America over our history, for who we have been. He has. The apology tour."

The notion that Obama started his presidency with an "apology tour" is a persistent and false talking point that PolitiFact has debunked a number of times.

Flynn, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, made a call during his speech for the truth (he did not comment in CNN's story):

"This divisiveness that exists, the political class of our country that has really failed to really give us the kinds of things that we expect which is just honesty. Just tell the truth."