Civil Action Lawsuit Challenges Seattle Caste Law for Violating Civil Rights and Religious Freedom
The only way to fight unconstitutional legislation is via the judiciary, and the Bagal v. City of Seattle officials begin this process hoping that more Seattle residents will join the cause.
By Jonathan Gomez
A civil lawsuit was filed against Seattle city officials, including Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Lisa Herbold, as well as Mayor Bruce Harrell for violations of civil rights, particularly focusing on the Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
On February 21, 2023, the Seattle City Council passed a law to “amend anti-discrimination protections in employment, public places, housing, and contracting to include caste as a protected class. Seattle’s Mayor signed the law, making Seattle the first city in the United States to ban caste discrimination.”
However, this caste ordinance is nothing more than an attempt to target Indian Americans and especially, Hindu Americans. The lawsuit filed by Abhijit Bagal against Seattle city officials challenges the implementation of the caste law and its impact on religious freedom and potential discrimination. In it, Bagal argues that the caste law in Seattle infringes upon constitutional rights and promotes discrimination.
The lawsuit invokes 42 U.S.C. §1983, which prohibits state actors or individuals acting under color of state law from depriving others of their constitutional rights. Bagal asserts that the defendants viz, councilors Kshama Sawant, Lisa Herbold and Mayor Harrel, have interfered with the free exercise of religious institutions and matters of faith and doctrine. He further argues that the caste law's imposition of caste within the contours of Hinduism is a unilateral decision that undermines religious freedom.
The lawsuit also raises important questions about government intervention in religious matters and the potential for discrimination resulting from the caste law's enforcement.
Additionally, the lawsuit alleges a violation of the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from endorsing or favoring any particular religion. Bagal asserts that the caste law creates a discriminatory system that targets Indian Americans while granting immunity to other groups, such as Chinese Americans. This unequal treatment is seen as a violation of the Establishment Clause.
While this is a pro se filing, Bagal is actively seeking like minded individuals to join the cause and support the civil lawsuit's progress. They aim to build a grassroots, nonpartisan, and fact-based platform of volunteers to fight against unconstitutional laws in Seattle and beyond.
In an exclusive interview with CasteFiles.com , Bagal said the reason he filed this case is because “I believe in Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Natural Way of Life) which is devoid of sectarian leanings, denominational prejudices, ideological divisions, and discrimination against anyone. The solution to ending discrimination is not to introduce new forms of discrimination targeted at specific groups and further divide people. The Seattle caste ordinance violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of our constitution. I have filed this case to ensure equal protection of the law and fair treatment of all persons without regard to their background.”
Asked if he is a Seattle resident, Bagal said, “ I lived in the City of Seattle from 1995 to 1997 and attended graduate school at Seattle University located in the heart of tech-heavy Seattle's eclectic Capitol Hill (CHOP) neighborhood. I graduated from Seattle University in June 1997 with a master’s degree in software engineering and a culminating thesis comprising an industry-strength yearlong capstone project sequence sponsored by Microsoft, Seattle. Immediately after graduation, I became a lifelong member of the Seattle University Alumni Association (SUAA) and remain connected as an active member of the Seattle University community.”
As far as next steps go for this lawsuit, Bagal is working to build a team and develop a fact-based, grassroots, crowd-sourced, whistleblower platform of nonpartisan volunteers to fight unconstitutional laws in Seattle, California and anywhere where the Caste bogey travels.. Like minded residents of Seattle and elsewhere who want to join us are invited to become members of this effort to help this civil lawsuit move forward.”