Last week, the California state legislature took an important step in protecting the religious rights of California residents by unanimously passing SB-652 (Entry doors: display of religious items).
Spearheaded by State Senator Ben Allen (D-26) and the California Jewish Legislative Caucus, SB-652 prohibits property owners, landlords, and homeowner associations from adopting and enforcing a policy that would prevent a resident from displaying religious items on an entry door or door frame of their residence.
“We commend the state legislature for unanimously passing SB 652, which creates a safe environment for members of all religious communities, including Hindus, to practice and express their religion freely and peacefully without interference,” said Easan Katir, California Advocacy Director at the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). “We look forward to Governor Gavin Newsom signing this critical bill into law,” added Katir.
While the bill was initially conceived to protect the rights of Jewish renters and condo owners to display religiously mandated mezuzahs, the bill provides broad protections for all religious communities to display religious symbols on their doors.
HAF submitted a letter of support for SB-652, and worked with Sen. Allen and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on the bill’s language in order to accommodate the size of many sacred Hindu symbols often displayed on doors and door frames.
Millions of practicing Hindus, consistent with their deeply held religious beliefs, adorn their homes with a toran, an auspicious Hindu symbol that is hung across the door frame to bless the home and welcome guests. Hindus also frequently place other sacred symbols or images of Deities on their doors.
HAF has received several reports in the past of homeowners associations prohibiting the display of Hindu symbols or unreasonably restricting the size of those displays.
“We thank Sen. Allen and the ADL for their leadership on SB-652 and for working with us to ensure that the needs of the Hindu American community are addressed in the bill,” said Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF Managing Director. “This will have a real impact on the lives of nearly 800,000 Hindus in California, many of whom reside in condos or apartments,” stated Kalra.