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Avella, leaders push religious corporations bill

By Madina Toure

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and religious and community leaders are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign into a law bill that would include the Hindu, Sikh and Islamic faiths in the state’s religious incorporation law.

Introduced in 2012, the bill would allow organized groups affiliated with the Hindu, Sikh and Islamic religions to incorporate as non-profits for legal and tax purposes. The bill passed both houses.

Avella referred to the 1657 signing of the Flushing Remonstrance, the document considered to be the forerunner of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“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,” he said in a statement.

Religious leaders urged the passage of the bill.

“With this historic law our faith-based leaders can call themselves proudly as Pandit, Swami, Guru, Granthi, Imam, Moulvi or Maulana, which they are accustomed to within their own culture,” Dilip Nath, president of the New American Voters Association, said in a statement. “This is evidently a step forward in reassurance of religious freedom for all the people here in this great state of New York.”

Sajjan Singh, president of Gurdwara Sant Sagar in Bellerose, said the Sikh community would benefit from the law.

“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 religiously affiliated groups under the current New York State Religious Corporations Law,” Singh said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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