Police in Louisville, Kentucky arrested a 17-year old on Thursday, Jan. 31, whom they suspect of vandalizing a Hindu temple . The juvenile, whose name was not released, has been charged with third-degree burglary and first-degree criminal mischief, the Courier-Journal reported. Police did reveal that the juvenile was a Jefferson County Public Schools student.
The Swaminarayan Temple had been sprayed with messages of hate in black paint, with words like “Jesus Is All Mighty,” “Jesus Is Lord,” and one of the religious figures was defaced as well. The incident has shaken the Indian-American community in the area and drawn the ire of leaders around the country
“I am outraged and heartbroken to see the vandalism of Louisville, Kentucky’s Swaminarayan Temple in what was unquestionably an act of hate that strikes at the sense of security and belonging of the Hindu-American community in Louisville and across our nation,” asserted Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, in a statement. “This act of violent bigotry touches me personally as a Congressman and as a Hindu-American,” he added.
“This is an attack on our identity as a nation that accepts people of all races, colors, creeds and backgrounds committed to building our more perfect, more diverse union. We must show our support for the Swaminarayan Temple, even as we recognize this prejudice as part of growing trend of hate-motivated crimes in America, whether it’s against a Hindu temple in Louisville, a synagogue in Los Angeles, or a man walking alone down the morning streets of Chicago,” Krishnamoorthi said alluding also to the attack on actor Jussie Smollet.
The temple’s spokesman, Rajesh Patel, is quoted on CNN saying members were shaken up by the vandalism, especially the black paint defacing a diety.
“Saddened by the reprehensible and inexcusable vandalism that occurred at a Hindu temple in Louisville…In a state & nation that protect and celebrate religious liberty, this is unacceptable…Police investigators are working hard to find the perpetrators…Justice will be served,” Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin tweeted on Jan. 30, the day of the incident.
The State Attorney General Andy Beshear tweeted, “The recent act of vandalism at the Shree Swaminarayan Hindu Temple in Louisville is unacceptable. We are all Kentuckians and our constitution protects all of our freedoms to worship. I would encourage everyone to support the clean-up efforts.”
According to a press release, Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged Bevin to visit the temple and meet the Hindu community in Louisville area.
Rep. Krishnamoorthi said he will be introducing an updated version of hate crime legislation he introduced in the 2015 Congress, “To address the increase in hate crimes we’ve witnessed over these past few years.” That resolution called for establishing a federal commission on hate crimes “to investigate the nature of this increase in hate-motivated attacks, its root causes, and how we defeat it.”
A spokesman for BAPS Swaminarayan North America, told News India Times, “We are deeply saddened by this incident of hate and vandalism. BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha stands with members of the community during this disturbing incident. Volunteers from BAPS are going there today to help cleanup the mandir. Such places of worship promote peace, harmony and understanding, and should be respected as such. We pray that we can all work, live and pray in harmony – regardless of race, religion or background.”
The juvenile, who police believe was acting alone, provided a statement to them about the crime, the Courier Journal reported. It has yet to be described as a “hate crime” however, and the arrest report called it a “bias” crime of religious nature, and only a judge could decide if it would be upgraded to a “hate crime,” the report said.