The Hindu Temple Society of North America, of Flushing, Queens, filed suit in federal court yesterday, claiming that local courts are aiding the hostile takeover of the Temple in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The Temple is represented by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, an international, interfaith, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn. It asks the federal court to issue an injunction barring the local court from further activity that would jeopardize the rights of the Temple and its devotees. If successful, the federal suit would prevent the State from enforcing an unprecedented intrusion into the religious affairs of a faith community.
“Would the state courts dare tell the Archdiocese of New York that parishioners must be able to vote Cardinal Egan out of office?” asked Roman Storzer, The Becket Fund’s director of litigation. “Of course not. The public would be outraged. Yet because Hinduism is an unfamiliar, minority religion, the Hindu Temple Society is suffering a similar fate here.”
The Becket Fund claims that Supreme Court Judge Joseph G. Golia and Long Island his appointed referee, lawyer Anthony J. Piacentini are forcibly restructuring the governance of the Temple. The restructuring, says The Becket Fund, is in response to six dissidents who wish to control the Temple but who rarely worship there.
The federal lawsuit states that Judge Golia and Referee Piacentini have used their judicial offices to take control of the Temple, to prohibit it from engaging in certain forms of religious exercise and speech, and to impose a voting membership requirement, including the definition of who is a Hindu. These decisions, The Becket Fund argues, violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
“If these orders are allowed to stand, they will have the effect of transferring complete control of the Temple—even who decides which priests will be hired and what gods will be worshipped—to new individuals,” reads a press release, issued by The Becket Fund.