Coalition of Hindus of North America

FAQs on California's Bill AB2282 Regarding Swastika

What are the current concerns around California’s Bill AB2282?

CoHNA and our Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain partners, are concerned that the current bill doesn’t adequately distinguish between the sacred Swastika and the Nazi Hakenkreuz (“hooked cross”) and continues/reinforces the wrongful association between the two symbols by using the words “Nazi Swastika.” In fact, in the amended language, the bill essentially implies that there is a “good Swastika” and a “bad Swastika.” 

Furthermore, the bill adds new language that states that the “Nazi Swastika” was the official emblem of the Nazi party – making matters worse and associating the sacred Swastika even more closely with the Nazi ideology. 

The Swastika is a sacred and auspicious symbol for close to two billion people and is over ten thousand years old – way before Nazis even showed up in the picture. It has nothing to do with the Nazis, as Hitler always referred to his symbol as the “Hakenkreuz” (“hooked cross”)

These two falsehoods (namely (1) “Nazi Swastika” and (2) emblem of Nazi party) make the language highly problematic for our communities and traditions.

Why is CoHNA taking up this position now?

Our position has never changed. Our stance today reflects the united stance of various Dharmic organizations for the past two years. Starting from the Swastika campaign in New York in 2020, CoHNA, along with various major Hindu, Buddhist and Jain organizations have been on the same page – we want to ensure that there is no connection between Nazis and our sacred Swastika. All groups had agreed that they would not be ok with words such as “Nazi Swastika” in any bill or literature and will actively work with various stakeholders to remove such references. So, our position has remained exactly the same and will continue to do so.

It seems that there are certain restrictions in removing the words “Nazi Swastika” from the current language. So, why not just compromise and work on changing things later? Don’t we have a “win” in the current assembly bill? 

We are open to several different ways that would accommodate our central concern. Since the past few months, CoHNA has worked with Assemblywoman Bauer-Kahan’s office and has proposed the following options:

    1. Remove the words “Nazi Swastika.” Instead, use generic words such as “Nazi emblem” or “Nazi hate symbol.”
    2. If, for some reason, the bill must refer to the old Penal Code (which contains “Nazi Swastika”), it should add words such as – “incorrectly or falsely known as the Nazi Swastika.”
    3. The word “Swastika” should only be used when referring to the sacred symbol used by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains.

For context – The amended bill already inserts some new language with the phrase “…that was the official emblem of the Nazi party” to further (incorrectly) clarify reference to “Nazi Swastika.” If new language can be inserted here, it is also surely possible to clarify things even further by adding the words “incorrectly or falsely known as the Nazi Swastika.” – this is a simple and reasonable demand.

We, and our partners, are of the opinion that the language can be modified to accommodate the concerns of the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain communities while still ensuring an inclusive and equitable bill.

Has such a language change been possible elsewhere?

Yes! CoHNA has had previous experience in getting the language modified in New Jersey. For example, NJ Bill A1749 originally contained the words “Nazi Swastika.” However, CoHNA and its partners worked with Assemblywoman Angela Mcknight (the original author) and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (Chair of NJ Judiciary Committee) to remove the words “Nazi Swastika.” The current version (now called A1506) has removed these words and now contains the following words – “…other symbol of hate, including but not limited to a symbol of white supremacy or Nazi ideology.”

It is important to note that, just like California, Section 1 of P.L.1981, c.282 (C.2C:33‑10) of the NJ Criminal Code contains the words “Nazi Swastika” and therefore the amended bill (if passed) will remove these words and simply refer to a symbol of hate associated with Nazi ideology.

Thus, change is possible based on our experience in New Jersey. That’s why CoHNA and its partners will continue to work on this issue in California. If California’s bill AB2282 can add new language that (incorrectly) says that the “Nazi Swastika” was the official emblem of the Nazi party, we are sure that the bill can either add language clarifying that the reference to “Nazi Swastika” is inaccurate or remove the words “Nazi Swastika” altogether.

Why is this so important now? Can’t CoHNA work on modifying the California Penal Code over the next few years while AB2282 contains “Nazi Swastika”?

California has set the trend on many issues in America. Thus, if the current bill becomes law, it can potentially unleash a wave of such bills across the country and the rise in hate crimes and bigotry and the targeting of vulnerable communities. Other legislators may decide to the use bill AB2282’s language with the words “Nazi Swastika” and perpetuate the same wrongful association and confusion around the sacred Swastika vs Hitler’s Hakenkreuz.

In addition, past experience on a number of topics has shown that postponing a tough task for a later date generally does not help, as attitudes become more entrenched.

What is the latest status?

The bill is now on the senate floor and will be voted on on Tuesday, June 21st. If passed, it will then make its way to the Governor’s office to be signed into law, effective January 1, 2023.

How can I help?

If you are a representative of a temple, monastery, organization, spiritual group, community association, etc. please sign our letter below. We will be sending this letter to the California senate and urge them to modify the language in the bill.

https://cohna.org/organization-letter-to-senators-swastika-bill/

You can join our campaign and team by emailing us at info@cohna.org and checking out our resources below.

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