United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
BIBIJI INDERJIT KAUR PURI; RANBIR SINGH BHAI; KAMALJIT KAUR KOHLI; KULBIR SINGH PURI, Plaintiffs,
SOPURKH KAUR KHALSA; PERAIM KAUR KHALSA; SIRI RAM KAUR KHALSA; KARTAR SINGH KHALSA; KARAM SINGH KHALSA; SIRI KARM KAUR KHALSA; ROY LAMBERT; SCHWABE, WILLIAMSON & WYATT, an Oregon Professional Corporation; LEWIS M. HOROWITZ; LANE POWELL PC, an Oregon Professional Corporation; UNTO INFINITY, LLC, an Oregon Limited Liability Company; SIRI SINGH SAHIB CORPORATION, an Oregon non-profit corporation; GURUDHAN SINGH KHALSA; GURU HARI SINGH KHALSA; AJEET SINGH KHALSA; EWTC MANAGEMENT, LLC; DOES, 1-5, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL W. MOSMAN, Chief United States District Judge
matter comes before me on Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment  and Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment . The parties also filed several motions to
strike. [418, 424, 428]. For the reasons below, I GRANT
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment , DENY
Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment ,
and DENY or DENY as moot the parties' Motions to Strike
[418, 424, 428].
dispute revolves around the now deceased Siri Singh Sahib
Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, aka Yogi Bhajan.
Yogi Bhajan was a Sikh Dharma spiritual leader who helped
promulgate the Sikh religion and Kundalini Yoga in the United
States until his death in 2004. In 1971, Yogi Bhajan became
"Siri Singh Sahib, " or the Chief Religious and
Administrative Authority for the Ordained Ministry of Sikh
Dharma in the Western Hemisphere. Gurujot Decl. ,
¶¶ 6, 8. Pursuant to his role as Siri Singh Sahib,
Yogi Bhajan established numerous non-profit organizations and
for-profit businesses. This case involves three of these
organizations: Sikh Dharma International (SDI), Siri Singh
Sahib Corporation (SSSC), and Unto Infinity, LLC (UI).
Plaintiffs in this case are Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Puri, Ranbir
Singh Bhai, Kamaljit Kaur Kohli, and Kulbir Singh Puri, the
widow and three children of Yogi Bhajan. The Defendants
remaining in this case are UI, SSSC, Sopurkh Kaur Khalsa, the
President and a member of the UI Board of Managers and a
member of the SSSC Board of Trustees, and Kartar Singh
Khalsa, a member of the UI and SSSC boards. Plaintiffs allege
in the operative Second Amended Complaint (SAC) that after
Yogi Bhajan's death on October 6, 2004, the individual
Defendants conspired to exclude them from management of UI
and SSSC. SAC  ¶¶ 24-29. They seek declaratory
relief placing them on the boards and monetary damages.
a California nonprofit religious corporation. Gurujot Decl.
, ¶ 13; id. Ex. 1. It is undisputed that
SDI is a religious organization. SDI, which was originally
named Sikh Dharma Brotherhood, was formed in 1973 for the
following primary purposes:
[T]o operate for the advancement of education, science and
religion and for charitable purposes by the distribution of
its funds for such purposes by operating as a religious
organization and as association of religious organizations,
by teaching the principles of the Sikh Dharma, or way of
life, in the Western Hemisphere and including, but not
limited to, the creation and operation of places of worship,
the ordination of ministers of divinity, the creation and
operation of educational centers and associated and
supportive activities related to these primary purposes.
Decl. , Ex. 1 (SDI Articles of Incorporation). SDFs 2003
Bylaws, which were in effect at the time of the events
underlying this case, stated:
[SDI] is organized and shall be operated exclusively for the
purposes of operating as a religious organization and as an
association of religious organizations by teaching the
principles of the Sikh Dharma, or way of life; by creation
and operation of places of worship; by ordination of
ministers of divinity; by creation and operation of
educational centers; and by the conduct of associated and
supportive activities related to these purposes; and to do
all things necessary, expedient or appropriate to the
accomplishment of the purposes for which this corporation is
See Gurujot Decl. , Ex. 9 at 1. And SDI
receives a tax exemption as "a church or a convention or
association of churches" under 26 U.S.C. §
501(c)(3) and § l7O(b)(1)(A)(i). Gurujot Decl. ,
to Yogi Bhajan's death, there were two individual
religious positions in SDI: the Siri Singh Sahib and the Bhai
Sahiba. Yogi Bhajan, in his role as Siri Singh Sahib, served
as the chief religious authority of SDI, and the Bhai Sahiba
"over[saw] religious protocol." Gurojodha Decl.
, Ex. 3 at 31. Following Yogi Bhajan's death, the
"Siri Sikdar Sahib/a and the Bhai Sahib or Bhai Sahiba
[are] together ... the chief authority on the teachings of
Siri Singh Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji on the
practice of Sikh Dharma." Gurojot Decl. , Ex. 9 at
10. The Bhai Sahiba advises SDI, the Khalsa Council, and UI
on religious matters. Gurojot Decl. , Ex. 9 at 13. The
Siri Sikdar Sahib/a "shall champion the spiritual and
secular education of the children of Sikh Dharma" and
"shall devote time daily for meditation and prayer on
behalf of the congregations of Sikh Dharma, shall be
responsible through the office of the Bhai Sahib/a for
maintaining and improving the quality of spiritual practice
in Western hemisphere communities and for inspiring and
promoting devotion to Shabd Guru." Gurojot Decl. ,
Ex. 9 at 12. Additionally, the 2003 SDI Bylaws call for the
Siri Sikdar Sahib/a to lead annual pilgrimages and perform
outreach to other Sikh religious leaders. Gurojot Decl.
, Ex. 9 at 12.
bylaws also outlined several governing boards, including an
advisory board of SDI ministers called the Khalsa Council,
which advises UI "on matters of significance" to
SDI, and a board of directors called the Khalsa Council Adh
Kari. Gurojot Decl. , Ex. 9 at 8.
an Oregon nonprofit religious corporation formed in 1997
"to take over the leadership function of [Yogi Bhajan]
after his death." Gurojodha Decl. , Ex. 3 at 30.
SSSC's purposes include overseeing the
"administration and program services" of SDI and
"conducting] and/or facilitat[ing] religious,
charitable, and educational activities." Gurojodha Decl.
, Ex. 3 at 17, 20; Soni Decl. , Ex. C, Art. VI.
Like SDI, SSSC receives a tax exemption as "a church or
a convention or association of churches." Gurojodha
Decl. , Ex. 3 at 2, 25.
his lifetime, Yogi Bhajan was the sole director of SSSC. Soni
Decl. , Ex. B (SSSC Articles of Incorporation), at 3.
Following his death, a board of trustees/directors was to
govern SSSC. According to the original SSSC Articles of
Incorporation, following Yogi Bhajan's death or
incapacity, "the directors shall be those persons
designated in writing by [Yogi Bhajan]. The written
designation; and any amendment, or supplement to it, shall be
dated upon execution and shall be delivered to, and held in
confidence by the attorney for the corporation and Sikh
Dharma designated in the corporation's Bylaws." Soni
Decl. , Ex. B at 3. The original SSSC Bylaws designated
Roy Lambert (who was a Defendant in this case until
Plaintiffs settled their claims against him) as the attorney
for SSSC. Soni Decl. , Ex. C, Art. VI. These disputed
designations that are at the core of Plaintiff s claims in
Bylaws also outline certain job duties for the trustees:
A trustee shall perform his or her duties as a trustee
including his or her duties as a member of any committee of
the board upon which the trustee may serve, in good faith, in
a manner the trustee believes to be in or not opposed to the
best interests of the corporation and with such care as an
ordinarily prudent person would use under similar
circumstances in a like position.
Soni Decl. , Ex. C, Art. 2 (Bylaws). The SSSC Articles
outline an additional job duty for the board: the Articles
state that Yogi Bhajan would designate an individual to
succeed to the office of Siri Sikdar Sahib/a, who would also
serve as a director of the SSSC board. Soni Decl. , Ex.
B at 4. But if Yogi Bhajan failed to designate such an
individual, the SSSC board was to choose a new Siri Sikdar
Sahib/a, with the advice of the Khalsa Council. Soni Decl.
, Ex. Bat 4-5.
later amended versions of the Articles of Restatement of SSSC
and the Restated Articles of Incorporation required that SSSC
board members be qualified as ministers of Sikh Dharma and
live "in a manner consistent with the teachings and
values of [Yogi Bhajan]." Soni Decl. , Ex. E.
Although some of these documents were dated October 1-3,
2004, prior to Yogi Bhajan's death, it appears that the
documents were actually created in November 2004, after his
death. Soni Decl. , Ex. DD.
Yogi Bhajan's death and the subsequent 2012 settlement
agreement, SSSC's role within the Sikh Dharma hierarchy
changed. The current SSSC board "has the authority to
appoint and remove the board members of Sikh Dharma
International (SDI), which, among other things, contains the
Sikh Dharma Ministry and, through the Ministry, carries out
the function of ordaining Sikh Ministers." Gurojodha
Deck  ¶ 28. The current mission statement of
With the guidance of God and the grace of the Guru it is the
mission of the SSSC to protect, preserve and cultivate the
prosperity of the constituent community and its assets;
listen to, serve and elevate the constituent community;
support the nonprofit and for profit entities and the family
of constituent communities; and live to and hold the values
of the teachings of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib and the Siri
Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi Ji:
selfless service, compassion, kindness, honesty, integrity,
trustworthiness and Guru inspired consciousness.
Gurojodha Deck  ¶ 25. The current president of the
SSSC board stated that board members "act as
representatives and ambassadors of Sikh Dharma. SSSC Board
members, myself included, regularly participate in outreach,
interfaith, mission building, and Sikh awareness
events." Gurojodha Deck  ¶ 39. Finally, the
SSSC board president describes the current election process
for SSSC as following:
For the 2012, 2015, and 2017 SSSC Board elections, the
elected SSSC Board members were elected by fellow Sikh Dharma
ministers, active Khalsa Council members, and members of the
Sikh Dharma community pursuant to the terms of the SSSC Board
Election Policy. For future elections, and pursuant to a
change in the SSSC Board Election Policy, only Sikh Dharma
ministers who are in good standing will be eligible to vote
for SSSC Board members.
Gurojodha Deck  ¶ 16.
the death of Yogi Bhajan, SSSC became the sole member of UI,
an Oregon nonprofit LLC formed in 2003. UI was the sole
member of SDI until 2012, when SSSC assumed this
role. Gurujot Decl. , ¶ 13;
id. Ex. 3. Former attorney for Defendants (and
former Defendant) Roy Lambert testified that UI was intended
to be the "ultimate decision-maker with respect to the
.. . [Yogi Bhajan] community" after Yogi Bhajan's
death, because Yogi Bhajan felt that the board of SSSC was
too large. Soni Decl. , Exh. WW at 138. To this end,
Yogi Bhajan issued a proclamation on June 30, 2004 stating:
I hereby proclaim that Unto Infinity, LLC, is the entity
authorized by me to continue to exercise the administrative
authority of the office of the Siri Singh Sahib of Sikh
Dharma, once I no longer occupy that office, in all those
cases where authorization by the Siri Singh Sahib is required
in the articles, ...