Hindu Temple in Texas sued for branding 11-year-old child

April 05, 2024 12:08 pm | Updated 12:09 pm IST - Houston

An Indian-origin man whose 11-year-old son was branded with a hot iron rod as part of a religious ceremony in 2023 has sued a Hindu temple in the US state of Texas and its parent company seeking more than USD 1 million in damages.

Vijay Cheruvu, a Fort Bend County resident, said his son was branded with a hot iron rod during a religious ceremony at the Sri Ashtalakshmi Hindu temple in Sugarland, Texas in August last year.

According to a lawsuit filed this week in Fort Bend County, the boy suffered extreme pain and permanent disfigurement.

Cheruvu is seeking more than USD 1 million in damages in the lawsuit against the temple and its parent organisation, Jeeyar Educational Trust (JET) USA, Inc.

“I was shocked. I didn’t know how to handle it. My primary concern is for my son’s well-being,” Mr. Cheruvu said at a press conference here.

He said his son was branded in two spots on his shoulder in the shape of a Hindu god, Vishnu.

The lawsuit claims that over 100 people participated in the ceremony at the Ashtalakshmi Temple off Synott Road in Sugar Land in August. Three of those participants were children, including Cheruvu's son.

Cheruvu's attorney, Brant Stogner, said the boy was branded in both shoulders, resulting in extreme pain and permanent disfigurement, and subsequently developed an infection as a result of the branding.

The boy attended the ceremony with his mother and was branded against his will and without the knowledge or consent of his father, according to Stogner, who said branding, tattooing or scarring a child is illegal in Texas even with parental consent.

"This is happening basically in our backyard over here, so that's the reason we filed the lawsuit," Stogner said.

"We want to make sure our community is aware of this and want to make sure it doesn't happen to anybody else, anybody else's child or any child at all."

The child was not identified, but attorneys read an impact statement from the boy.

"I was so surprised. I did not know that anything was going to happen like this. I was shocked when they did it on my shoulder and it hurt so much that I almost cried," he said in part.

"They knew what they did was very wrong because they told me to keep it secret from everyone else. But I had to tell my dad when the pain got worse and it became infected," he said.

Cheruvu says that his son was taken to the temple by his ex-wife. The son was branded, but the mother was not.

"He goes to see a therapist. He’s so deeply scarred, mentally scarred, and then there’s all the pain," said the father.

When the temple was contacted, there was no response to constant calls or emails.

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