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Two-year dispute rings in '06 at Sikh temple
Appeals court still deciding case

Bedford, cleveland, January 02, 2005
Molly Kavanaugh
Plain Dealer Reporter

The new year at the Sikh temple on Tarbell Avenue began with an old feud over voting rights and tradition.

A group saying they were the newly elected leaders of the Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Temple grabbed the microphone at the midnight prayer service, then returned to the temple later Sunday to continue their takeover.

For two hours, men from both sides traded angry words and snapped photographs of each other, as women and children milled about and police appealed for calm. In the past, fights have broken out, and people have been injured.

"The Police Department can't settle this. This has been going on for two years. We're here to keep the peace," said Bedford Police Chief Greg Duber, who arrived in street clothes after officers contacted him at home.

The dispute is between longtime members of the temple, who view themselves as modern Sikhs not bound by rules regarding dress, and more numerous newcomers, who favor a return to tradition, including beards and turbans. The longtime leadership also restricts who can be a voting member.

Police finally left Sunday after the longtime leaders agreed to leave the temple, which opened in 1992 and has from 250 to 400 members. The five-member executive committee that took over this weekend stayed.

The feud, which is working its way through the courts, came to a head this weekend because the temple's constitution calls for new leaders to take office Jan. 1.

A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge ruled in September that the temple's membership could be expanded with the many newcomers and all members are entitled to vote and view financial records. That paved the way for the new leadership.

But the old leaders filed a notice of appeal. Until the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals rules, the leadership should remain in place, argued Gursharan Gill, one of the ousted leaders.

"Whatever the decision is, we will abide by it," he said.

Azaad Khaira represents the new leadership. He said that Gill and the others are dragging their feet with the appeal, and their disregard for wearing beards is an insult to the prophet Jesus Christ.

The religion began about 500 years ago in the Punjab region of India

"They say there are modern Sikhs. There is no such thing," said Khaira, editor and publisher of The Asian Leader.

For about five minutes, the two sides appeared to be one. As the priest, also called religious worker, began praying in the upstairs sanctuary, his voice was piped downstairs through the speakers.

Gill and the others grew quiet, folded their hands and joined in prayer.


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