Indian American Akhilesh Tripathi, 64, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has filed a federal lawsuit against the Murano Condominium Association for alleged religious discrimination after they told him that his welcome symbol of a “toran” cannot be hung across the top of his front door.
According to a Philly.com report, Tripathi has been living in the building for the last 10 years and nobody has ever questioned him about the “toran”
“The symbol of toran is saying this house is blessed with God and Lakshmiji and you are welcome here. This is my upbringing and my deeply embedded religious belief,” Tripathi told Philly.com.
The “toran” was given to him by his daughter as a gift when he moved into the condo in 2009 and was also blessed by a priest before it was hung up.
But in February, the condo association told him that the “toran” was not welcome in the building anymore though they have not commented about the lawsuit that Tripathi has filed for the action.
According to Philly.com, the suit bans the association from removing the toran and applies to actual and punitive damages.
The suit further adds that the association adopted a new policy on Feb. 13 about placing holiday decorations and religious symbols on residents’ front doors and around that area.
“The association’s regulation expressly permits certain religious symbols to be permanently attached to a door frame, such as a Jewish mezuzah (which the regulation specifically references), but has been invoked by the association to forbid plaintiff’s Hindu toran. When the plaintiff refused to remove the toran from his doorway, defendant notified him that if he does not remove it, defendant would remove it,” the lawsuit states.
Kevin Toth, Tripathi’s attorney, told Philly.com that association’s new regulation coincides with Tripathi’s religious beliefs, which violates anti-discrimination provisions of the Fair Housing Act.
When the association sent Tripathi the letter ordering him to remove the “toran,” he rplied saying “don’t you touch it,” after which the association threatened to slap him with fines, sanctions, and suspension of his condo privileges if he didn’t, Philly.com reported.
Tripathi is an insurance and technology consultant who has been a technology executive as well as an engineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania; he is a single father of two adult children and lives with his cat and two dogs.