FLUSHING, NY (TIP): State Senator Avella joined a number of advocacy groups and community leaders at a press conference, July 23, to urge Governor Cuomo to sign into law Senate Bill S.903/Assembly Bill A.8122, which would explicitly recognize Hindu, Sikh and Islamic faiths in New York State’s religious incorporation law.
Introduced in 2012, the legislation would provide a means of incorporation for organized groups of Hindu, Sikh and Islamic faiths, as well as amend the definition of “clergyman” and “minister”, to include pandit, swami, guru, granthi, imam, moulvi, and maulana.
The bill passed both legislative houses this year and will be delivered to the Governor’s desk. In honor of the Flushing Remonstrance, where the people of Queens stood up for religious freedom over 3-50 years ago, Senator Avella stood with these groups in Flushing to urge the Governor to sign the bill.
“The signing of the Flushing Remonstrance was a significant victory for religious freedom in New York City history. It was then that the people of Queens stood up and said, ‘we stand for the religious freedom of all.’ It is therefore only appropriate that here, at the house that represents this historic moment, we gather today to urge Governor Cuomo to similarly stand for religious freedom. This legislation would explicitly recognize the Hindu, Sikh and Islamic faiths under New York State’s religious corporations law – a law that already recognizes over 20 other groups. I am proud to have worked with Assembly Member Brennan and my colleagues in the legislature to pass this bill in both houses. Now, I urge Governor Cuomo to sign this bill into law,” said Senator Tony Avella.
“Under the current New York State Religious Corporations Law, more than 20 religiously affiliated groups enjoy certain rights to incorporation. With the New York State Senate and Assembly passing this bill, the right to incorporation can now be expanded to encompass groups affiliated with the Hindu, Sikh, and Islamic faiths. I urge Governor Cuomo to sign this bill into law and give these groups the right to incorporate.” Said Assemblymember Jim Brennan, Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions.
“We welcome this bill, which brings about more inclusivity and is representative of the diversity of the various communities of New York. We commend Senator Avella and Assemblyman Brennan for their insight and initiatives,” said Ashook Ramsaran, President of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) International.
“On behalf of the Hindu Temple Society of North America and on my own, I am very pleased to know of the passing, by both the Senate and Assembly of New York State, of the bill to incorporate various organized religious groups including Hinduism and amending the definitions of the terms ‘clergyman’ and ‘religious minister’. It is my fond hope that the Governor will be pleased to sign the bill and I take this opportunity to thank Senator Avella and Assembly Member Brennan for their joint effort in this matter,” said Dr. Uma Mysorekar, President of the Hindu Temple Society of North America.
“Today the efforts of Senator Avella and Assembly Member Brennan has reintroduced the definition of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to the South Asian Community, where it states Freedom of Religion. The South Asian Community is thankful to have this bill passed by the Senate and Assembly, as it will allow the Sikh, Hindu and Islamic faiths to have the same rights to incorporation that is already given to nearly two dozen other relgiously affliated groups under the current New York State Religious Corporations Law. The Sikh community of Gurudwara Sant Sagar, Bellerose, urge Governor Cuomo to sign this bill,” said Sajjan Singh, President, Sant Sagar Gurudwara, Bellerose.
“I want to thank and congratulate Senator Avella and Assembly Member Brennan’s advocacy and hard work for passing the legislation of incorporation for organized groups and inclusion of all the religious faith leaders to include in the law. With this historic law our faith based leaders can call themselves proudly as Pandit, Swami, Guru, Granthi, Imam, Moulvi or Maulana which they are accustom to within their own culture. This is evidently a step forward in reassurance of religious freedom for all the people here in this great state of New York,” said Dilip Nath, President of the New American Voters Association.
“We are very proud to be a part of Senator Avella’s district as a local organization. I cannot commend Senator Avella and Assemblyman Brennan enough on their efforts to introduce and get this bill passed by the Senate and Assembly. Their efforts to equalize every community whether its related to race/religion/culture truly shows us all an example of an ideal elected official. We wish to see more elected offices like Senator Avella and Assemblyman Brenna working hard for their communities. We are glad it is introduced, now we hope to have Governor Cuomo sign this and incorporate it in the New York State Religious Corporation law,” said Mandeep Singh, Member of the Kapurthala Sports & Cultural Club.
“As a member of the South Asian Sikh community and a resident of the New York state for over 30 years, I feel after having this bill introduced and passed has made our community one step closer in pursuing the “American Dream. I am proud to say we have elected officials like Senator Tony Avella and Assemblyman Brennan that care about every community and its needs. We hope that Governor Cuomo signs this bill,” said Jaswant Singh, President of the Shaheed Udham Singh Society.
“Senator Avella has reached out to serve the needs of growing minority communities in Queens more than any other politician I have known. This bill will certainly be a landmark achievement in the history of equal religious rights in New York. I sincerely pray and support all the efforts for completing the process of getting this bill signed by the governor. This bill will not only give recognition to the titles of the clergymen of different faiths, it will also bridge gaps between the communities. It will be a means of educating each other about the beauty of each religion. I sincerely pray that this bill and other efforts made to educate the community become fruitful and beneficial for all of us,” said Mufti Muneer Ahmed Akhoon, Chairman of Al-Muneer Foundation.
The press conference was also attended by BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, South Asians for Empowerment (SAFE), the Richmond Hill Sikh Society Gurudwara, the Asian Advisory Council, the Good Neighbors Coalition, as well as community leaders Anwar Chaudhry, Pritpal Walia and Adam Kim.