California Governor Gavin Newsom July 30 signed into law a landmark bill protecting the rights of homeowners who wish to display religious symbols on their doorway to their homes.
The bill — SB 652, sponsored by state Sen. Ben Allen — was supported in the California state Legislature by the Hindu American Foundation and the California Jewish Legislative Caucus. The state Assembly passed the measure July 8 on a 76-0 vote, after passing through the state Senate May 6 on a 38-0 vote.
Many landlords and homeowners’ associations in the state currently prohibit the display of religious items on an entry door. Hindus often place a toran on their doorways, akin to Jewish people, who often place a mezuzah on their doorways. The bill came in response to complaints by renters and property owners in condominium complexes who were restricted from placing the items at the entrances to their homes.
“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,” said HAF in a press statement. “Hindus also frequently place other sacred symbols or images of deities on their doors,” the organization noted.
HAF said it 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 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 HAF.
“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 HAF managing director Samir Kalra.
“This will have a real impact on the lives of nearly 800,000 Hindus in California, many of whom reside in condos or apartments,” the Indian American activist said.
HAF said it had worked with Allen and the Anti-Defamation League on the bill’s language in order to accommodate the size of many sacred Hindu symbols often displayed on doors and door frames.
The bill protects the hanging of religious items smaller than 36-by-12 square inches, with exceptions for objects that “hinder the opening or closing of any entry door,” according to the measure’s text.
“Part of living in a diverse, multicultural society is having awareness, and sensitivity, to other people’s beliefs,” said Allen, as reported by The Jewish News of Northern California.