WATCHING A RIDICULOUS TALKING POINT BUBBLE UP FROM BELOW…. When we last counted, there were about 13 states pushing proposals to prohibit courts from considering Islamic “sharia” law in judicial rulings. The First Amendment already offers such a protection, and there are no U.S. court rulings based on sharia law, but these far-right activists/lawmakers feel this is worth their time, just in case.

But that’s just GOP silliness at the state level. At the national level, this is even too ridiculous for Republicans, isn’t it?

Alas, all-but-announced presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is going after sharia on the stump, as evidenced the other day at an appearance in New Hampshire.

“We need to define it and say what it is. And it is evil. Sharia law is incompatible with American jurisprudence and our Constitution.” […]

“They left because of Sharia law,” he said, referring to why he believes Muslim immigrants left their home countries to come to the United States.

Santorum added, “Sharia law is not just a religious code. It is also a governmental code. It happens to be both religious in nature an origin, but it is a civil code. And it is incompatible with the civil code of the United States.”

Now, as a factual matter, the notion of Muslim immigrants fleeing their home countries to evade sharia law is pretty silly, and Rick Santorum appears to have no idea what he’s talking about.

What’s more, as Justin Elliott explained, “Santorum, like others who have slammed sharia, did not specify what he’s talking about when he says ‘sharia.’ As I’ve previously reported, sharia is open to many interpretations and can encompass many different ideas. It is true that some Muslim-majority countries have civil codes that draw on sharia, but, again, practice varies widely.”

Right. When Santorum says sharia is “evil” and “incompatible with American jurisprudence,” is he talking about dietary restrictions?

The larger question, though, is whether Santorum’s nonsense is a canary in the right-wing coal mine, and we’re looking at the next big test for 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls. Adam Serwer noted that the GOP field has “a habit of eschewing policy realities for culture war red meat,” and their cable news network seems likely to “press the candidates to take a position on whether or not they will defend America against the phantom menace of Taliban-style Islamic law.”

In other words, in Republican politics, sharia is likely to be a fairly big deal over the next year or so.

Something to look out for as our discourse sinks a little further down the drain.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.