BOSTON – America’s nightclubs are largely closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that isn’t stopping an interfaith coalition from launching a campaign to stop what organizers call the “disrespectful” use of sacred Buddhist and Hindu statues as decor.
Representatives of the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Jewish and Christian traditions have formed an improbable alliance to end the practice, starting with upscale clubs in Boston and other cities that are managed by Beverly Hills, California-based Live Nation Entertainment.
Specifically, they’re targeting Foundation Room clubs in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Anaheim, California, that are part of Live Nation’s House of Blues network.
Campaign spokesperson Rajan Zed told The Associated Press the campaign was not deliberately timed to coincide with the national conversation on injustice in the aftermath of high-profile deaths of Black Americans, but acknowledged the time may be ripe to address what he called the “highly inappropriate” misuse of sacred icons.
“Symbols of faith shouldn’t be mishandled,” said Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, a Reno, Nevada-based organization that works to promote Hindu identity and foster dialogue between religions. “Hindu deities are meant to be worshiped in temples or home shrines — not to be thrown around loosely in a nightclub for dramatic effect.”
The coalition draws a distinction between sacred depictions of religious leaders such as Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and the “Laughing Buddha” or “Fat Buddha” statues frequently seen at Asian restaurants.
In addition to pushing for the removal of statues of Buddha as well as Hindu divinities such as Ganesha, Shiva, Rama and Hanuman, the group is demanding a public apology from Live Nation executives for misappropriating the sacred figures.
Statues of revered figures such as Mahavira and Parshvanatha “belong in temples for veneration, not to be misused or mishandled by nightclub patrons,” Jainist leader Sulekh C. Jain said in a statement. He suggested Live Nation, which includes the Ticketmaster entertainment events platform, could donate the statues to Jain temples in the U.S., and the Jain community would pay the shipping costs.