A Symbolic Victory for the GNFA Opposition
January 24, 2003
Rockville, MD - The president of the Guru Nanak Foundation of America, Kashmir Singh, was found in contempt of an earlier court order preventing either side of the embattled Gurdwara from disturbing the rights of worshipers to freely attend religious services.
After reviewing all the evidence, exhibits, witness testimonies, and the lawyers' arguments from the December 19, 2002 hearing, Judge Woodward of the Montgomery County Circuit Court said he found "considerable conflict in the testimonies." However, "the court is the sole judge of whether to believe those testimonies - all, part, or none," he said.
The court believed that on Friday, April 26, 2002, a protest of 50 adults and children was held in the lobby of the Gurdwara over the suspension of the Raagi Jathaa. This led to a disturbance which caused the management to call the Montgomery County Police Department. The protest was so disruptive that the all participants were asked to leave the building and the Gurdwara was shut down.
As a result, the management hired security officers for the next divan on Sunday morning. The court found that was "not unreasonable."
The court believed that on Sunday, April 28, 2002, Kashmir Singh directed the police officers to ask three of plaintiffs inside the Gurdwara to either go inside the divan hall or leave the building. Those who refused were escorted out. Keeping the lobby clear was a "reasonable security measure and did not disturb their participation, it was not contrary to the court's order, and it was not intended to be threatening."
The court believed that outside the Gurdwara on Sunday when the last two plaintiffs, Hardev Singh and Amarjeet Kaur, tried to enter the Gurdwara, Kashmir Singh did signal to the security officers to not let them come in. Six witnesses testified that Kashmir Singh was standing inside the double-glass-door breezeway signaling with his finger or nodding his head to the officers as to who could come in. The court believed that all the witnesses were seeking entrance. The court believed that the defendant's testimony denying any signaling was "not credible." All were allowed in about an hour later, however.
The court found Kashmir Singh in contempt of a January 25, 2002 court order not to interfere in allowing members to come to worship.
The question then became what would be the sanction for the contempt. The plaintiffs asked that Kashmir Singh be barred from the Gurdwara premises on Friday and Sunday divaans and on five Sikh holidays for a period of one year. The defense argued that this was a "disproportionate" sanction for one hour of not allowing members in. The defense's suggestion was that all parties just "stay cool" for now.
The judge stated that
contempt was a serious offense, but that he was concerned about being
"draconian" about the sanction. He asked that the plaintiffs
submit a detailed proposal for the sanction and that the defense submit
a response to it. The court will make its decision soon after. It is likely
that the sanction will end up being a slap-on-the-wrist.