Local News

Roanoke Rapids charity rebuffs turban-wearing donor

Posted November 20, 2008
Updated November 22, 2008

— A Halifax County man was turned away from a local mission when he refused to remove his turban while trying to make a donation.

When Gary Khera, went with his wife to the Union Mission on Roanoke Avenue to make a donation, a staffer asked him to remove his turban.

"She said, 'Sir, you have to take your turban off. This is the United States,'" Khera recounted. "That made me a little upset. I am a United States citizen."

Khera, citing his religious beliefs, declined. He is a Sikh with dual U.S. and Indian citizenship. Followers of Sikhism do not cut their hair, and men commonly wear long beards and turbans.

Florence Williams, the mission's in-take director, countered with the facility's policy that requires that men remove head coverings indoors. Rev. Ron Weeks, executive director of the mission, seconded her argument.

“He wanted to become argumentative, and I asked him to please leave,” Weeks said.

Offended, Khera left and took his money with him. He said that he and his wife have given to the mission in years past, always by mailing a check. This year, he wanted to see where his donation was going.

The mission building contains a chapel, and employees consider the entire building "the Lord's house," Weeks said. A sign in the lobby outlines the policy against hats or other headwear inside.

"We have policy, and he didn't want to abide by it," said Weeks. "He gave the receptionist a bad time and decided to do a vengeance thing because he didn't get his own way. This was nothing to do with the turban, nothing to do with his faith."

Weeks said the mission would welcome Khera's donation if he mailed it or had his wife bring it in.

Khera denied that he was disruptive or argumentative. He asserts that he calmly tried to explain that he was there to give a donation.

Now he'll take his money elsewhere.

"They should not turn away a donation for the needy, because they misunderstood someone else's religion," he added.

Weeks said he may consider changing the policy because of the incident.


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  • happymom Nov 21, 2008

    I wouldn't give to this organization after such a ridiculous scene. They obviously don't need the money. That, or their zenophobia kicked in and they mistaked this man for an "Arab/Muslim terrorist."

    Never mind. It couldn't **possibly** be that because we are such a tolerant country. They really must not need the money.

  • workingforthosethatwont Nov 21, 2008

    If you don't like the rules I have a simple suggestion. GO HOME!

  • prayin4tr Nov 21, 2008

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but before we all get behind our turban wearing friend, let's consider the fact that he owns/operates a strip club called the gentleman's playground in rocky mount as he once operated one in roanoke rapids. If his belief system were truly pure, I doubt he would use this type business to generate his money for donations. The belief in moral purity cited in the definition of his religion doesn't usually coincide with "Let's hear it for Destiny."

    As long as he is legally making the money to donate who are we to judge? This town is so close minded. I know Gary. He is a very kind man. If his religion requires him to wear a turban who are they to tell him to remove it? Do you think the homeless hungry people care what was on his head when he donated?

  • Viewer Nov 21, 2008

    I guess he now has a better idea as to how his previous donations were spent. St Paul advised his folks to exercise a bit of flexibility when dealing with others whose personal practices were different. This group might restudy that guidance.

  • kittiboo Nov 21, 2008

    I wonder- if a person going through chemo who had lost all her hair had come to donate money there, and was wearing a hat or scarf to cover her hair because she was embarrassed, would she have been required to take off her hat, too? Because if so, this must be the most uncaring, unbending "charity" mission out there- one who cares more about stupid "rules" than people's feelings or intentions. I'm glad they've gotten some bad press, and I hope they change their "rules" because of it. There's a difference between a hat and a religious head covering- too bad those mission people can't see it. (I think the no-hat rules are ridiculous anyway- who cares what you're wearing as long as you're not indecent?)

  • rescuefan Nov 21, 2008

    "I understand his aspect of this, but I also understand that if we start accomodating everyone's special need for their special difference, that all the rules everyone bestowed upon us to keep things uniform, and unbiased, all of a sudden become more biased than our common-place manners ever were." familyfour

    He was trying to donate money. And how is it that a rule about a hat should over-rule a religious belief? One that is set because someone feels that wearing a hat in a building is rude. Sorry. That is just dumb. Too bad, they just lost a donation to a worthy cause because they weren't willing to bend some silly rule.

  • Wheelman Nov 21, 2008

    How can he be upset about this organization's religious beliefs? His releigion requires him to wear the turban and that is fine and it should be respected. If this organization's religious beliefs require you to not have your head covered to enter their building which they consider to be the house fo the Lord, he should respect their religious beliefs as well. Why are the beliefs of Christians treated of being of less value to them. I'm really tired of this attitude that Christians should abandon their beliefs to accomodate others, but other religions shouldn't be expected to do the same. It's a double standard. He should have acknowledged their belief and respected it. Explained that his souldn't allow him to remove his turban so he understood. His insistance meant he held no respect for a religion other than his. It isn't the differences between societies and religions that causes problems, it's the lack of respect for another belief or point of view.

  • cj1979 Nov 21, 2008

    It would seem that everyone casting stones calling anyone in rural NC ignorant and redneck are no different from the folks you are trying to stereotype. You don't think they're ignorant people in the very cosmopolitan Raleigh, NC??? Just look at these posts.

    We live in a free nation and that freedom brings choice. It's obvious that the gentleman in the story and the mission in Roanoke Rapids are not a good fit and couldn't come to terms. So the gentleman keeps his money and the mission keeps their rule. End of story.

  • BottomLine Nov 21, 2008

    dual citizenship huhd ,,, then exercise it, see ya !

  • westoflyra Nov 21, 2008

    If you're truly interested in wanting to help people, mailing in your donation is just as effective. That's the point, isn't it?