What does AB2282 do?
AB2282 makes displaying the swastika legal in California. Right now, it is illegal to display a swastika. If AB2282 does not pass, then the swastika will still be illegal.
How is AB2282 a victory if the bill still contains the phrase “Nazi swastika”?
AB2282 will make California the first state to: 1) Recognize the swastika as a symbol of peace to the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist communities in its penal code, adding a layer of protection; and 2) Identify the Nazi emblem as the “hakenkreuz” and “hooked cross”.
These are two monumental victories in recognizing and educating the public about the swastika. Furthermore, AB2282 removes the threat of harassment for displaying a swastika.
Why was “Nazi swastika” not removed?
All legislation must first be vetted by the Legislative Counsel, a nonpartisan committee of attorneys who advise legislators on the constitutionality of bill language; a legislator cannot introduce legislation without clearance from the Legislative Counsel.
In the case of AB2282, Legislative Counsel determined that to legally decriminalize the swastika, the phrase “Nazi swastika” must remain because it exists in both the penal code and law enforcement training. Therefore, the language in AB2282 is a stopgap solution.
So has HAF changed their stance on the phrase “Nazi swastika” ?
No. We at HAF have never changed our stance. There is only one swastika, our sacred symbol, which for decades has been confused with the Nazi hakenkreuz (hooked cross).
Why was the community able to remove “Nazi swastika” in New York but not in California?
There is a difference between changing words in a bill text, and changing existing laws. In New York, through collective community efforts, we were able to remove the phrase “Nazi swastika” from the language of two New York bills that were unrelated to the penal code.
However, “Nazi swastika” is still criminalized in existing New York law, under New York Penal Code Section 240.31 Aggravated Harassment in the First Degree. Removing the misnomer “Nazi swastika” from bills does not remove it from the penal code. HAF is working towards a full removal of “Nazi swastika” from all state penal codes.
If “Nazi swastika” is required to remain in the penal code, then why not add the words “incorrectly known as” or “falsely known as” before “Nazi swastika”?
HAF’s initial proposed amendment included “previously known as” before “Nazi swastika.” However, Legislative Counsel determined that because “Nazi swastika” has been in both the penal code and law enforcement training 30+ years, adding “previously” or “falsely” would not clearly decriminalize the swastika under California law.
Legislative Counsel recommended “also known as” as a legally viable alternative. Given that the swastika has been incorrectly known in the West as the “Nazi swastika,” we viewed this language as acceptable for a stopgap solution. Remember, a legislator cannot introduce legislation without clearance from the Legislative Counsel.
But why compromise on something as important as “Nazi swastika”? Isn’t it better to be unyielding?
Although a hardline approach in advocacy may feel like a righteous cause, it rarely results in significant progress and long-term change. Advocacy is part science and part art in making gradual progress towards major changes to a legal framework that does not happen overnight.
Even though Legislative Counsel determined that “Nazi swastika” must remain, HAF saw an opportunity to create an amendment that educates the public, decriminalizes the swastika, and begins the multiyear process of reforming the California Penal Code. The authors’ intent of AB2282 was to equalize hate crimes penalties for white nationalists; HAF clarified that the emblem, commonly and incorrectly referred to as “Nazi swastika” in the West, is actually a symbol of peace in our community.
But nobody has actually been prosecuted under California’s existing penal code. Why not wait until the next legislative session and introduce a new bill?
Even though someone hasn’t been prosecuted, that does not mean it won’t happen in the future. Because of lack of awareness, Hindus are routinely questioned and harassed over displays of the swastika. We’ve known of an individual who was told he could not park his car in the employee parking lot unless he removed a display of the swastika on his car. Another family was threatened with fines and an order to remove swastikas from the entrance of their home by their HOA.
The tragic incident over the Buddhist swastika symbol that was removed at the Hidden Villa camp in the Bay Area exemplifies why AB 2282 is so crucial to educating the public and law enforcement about our swastika’s sacred history and its distinction from the hakenkreuz.
When an assemblymember showed interest in updating laws that have existed for 30+ years, HAF saw an opportunity, recognizing another one may not come around for a long time. Elections, new legislators, and shifting priorities can hinder progress during future legislative sessions. AB2282 is a major accomplishment in correcting misconceptions and educating the public, including law enforcement, about the swastika’s sacred meaning.
So, does AB2282 overhaul the entire California Penal Code?
AB2282 does not overhaul the California Penal Code. The overhauling process is a multi-step, multi-year process that will require several pieces of future legislation. AB2282 was never intended to be — and legally cannot be — the vehicle to overhaul the penal code. However, AB2282 can be a mechanism to clarify that the penal code is not intended to target Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains.
Why not introduce a bill this legislative session to overhaul the California Penal Code?
Every state legislature functions differently; a unique feature of the California legislature is it is one of a few states with an introduction deadline. Although the legislative session in California ends in the fall, the deadline for introducing new legislation is February 18, 2022.
Is AB2282 law now?
Not yet. To become law, a bill must pass through both the Assembly and Senate, and then be signed by the Governor, which is a multi-month process.
So what is the benefit to the Hindu American community?
AB2282 educates the California public on the difference between the hakenkreuz and the swastika. It decriminalizes the display of the swastika, explicitly recognizing it as a holy symbol of peace under California law. This adds a clear layer of protection that did not exist before.
What happens next?
Now that AB2282 has passed the Assembly, it is in the Senate, where it will be assigned to the Public Safety Committee for review. The Senate Public Safety Committee may choose to pass the bill, amend the bill, or let the bill die in committee.
How do I get more involved with HAF’s campaign to support AB2282?
HAF is always happy to collaborate!
As a professional, attorney-led advocacy organization for +20 years, HAF is experienced in garnering results. However, this would not be possible without the community.
If you are interested in supporting AB2282, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.