Last week the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) filed a motion in Santa Clara County Superior Court to intervene in the case of California Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cisco Systems. HAF has filed for injunctive relief to prevent the state’s overreach and violation of Hindu American rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendment and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. HAF’s motion to intervene takes no stance on the specific allegations of discrimination in the case.
HAF is represented in this motion by Narayan Travelstead PC, of Pleasanton, California.
“HAF vehemently opposes all discrimination and stopping it is a worthy goal, one that directly furthers Hinduism’s teachings about the equal presence of the divine in all people,” said Suhag Shukla, HAF’s Executive Director. “But, wrongly tying Hindu religious beliefs to the abhorrent act of caste discrimination undermines that goal and violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of all Hindu Americans.”
In its complaint, California argues that Cisco failed to address discrimination against one of its engineers by co-workers on the basis of his presumed caste. California goes on to state that caste is “a strict Hindu social and religious hierarchy” and therefore an integral part of Hindu teachings and practices.
Framing its argument in this way, California is attempting to do what the Constitution clearly says it cannot, HAF said: defining Hindu religious doctrine for Hindus.
“In the United States, there is no role for government to define our religious beliefs, whether it be Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity or any other. In fact, the Constitution expressly prohibits it. HAF’s actions are an important step in protecting the rights of all Americans,” stated Tim Travelstead, lead attorney for HAF.
Should California’s attempted violation of the First Amendment rights succeed, the due process rights of all Hindu Americans would also be violated, claimed Foundation representatives.
In its filing, HAF asserted that California provided no definition or workable method to determine anyone’s caste other than an assumption that Hindus of Indian decent must identify as part of a specific caste, ascribe to a “social and religious hierarchy,” and engage in caste discrimination. This inaccurate and unconstitutional definition would perversely lead to increased targeting of and discrimination against Indian-origin, and particularly Hindu workers, the Foundation stated.