January 25, 2012 7:18am PT by Eriq Gardner
Religious Group Sues Jay Leno Over Mitt Romney Joke
A man who runs a Punjabi religious organization has filed a lawsuit against Jay Leno and NBC over a joke cracked last week on The Tonight Show about Mitt Romney's wealth. The plaintiff says that by portraying the holy shrine of the Golden Temple as Romney's vacation home, Leno exposed all Sikh people to "hatred, contempt, ridicule, and obloquy."
The complaint lodged by Dr. Randeep Dhillon in Los Angeles Superior Court is barely longer than the joke itself. No explanation is given about why the subject matter was so religiously sensitive or how the reputation of the Sikh people was damaged besides some cursory words that the Leno joke was "false" and that it "hurt the sentiments" of this group. The plaintiff says the statement about the Golden Temple was made "intentionally," though it's not spelled out whether Leno's motivation was to harm the some 20 million people who practice Sikhism or merely to get a few laughs.
Leno isn't the first celebrity to be sued for insensitivity to an entire race.
A few years ago, Miley Cyrus was taken to court by a group of Pacific Islanders after a photo came out that showed her pulling back her eyelids in an allegedly mocking gesture. A judge later dismissed allegations that Cyrus had committed mass-discrimination.
The defamation lawsuit against Leno comes just as one conservative Catholic group expresses its own offense at another joke in one of Leno's recent monologues. The Catholic League, run by Bill Donahue, has let it be known that a Leno joke about a bishop who fathered children wasn't received well either. In the joke, Leno expressed wonder that the bishop could "move up and down" and would follow Church rules by not using birth control. Donahue said it was unacceptable to turn one wayward Catholic clergyman into the mocking of religious teachings.
At very least, Leno won't have to fear traveling to the Netherlands to vacation at the Peace Palace, home to the International Court of Justice. Last month, the United Nations adopted a resolution condemning religious intolerance, but decided to ditch language that incorporated a new concept called "defamation of religion." A group of atheists found the free speech threat to be less than funny.