N.C. Mission Rejects Charity Over Turban

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

Gary Khera, who is a Sikh with U.S. and Indian citizenship, went to the Union Mission this week to donate cash or food, The Daily Herald of Roanoke Rapids reported Thursday. Khera said he had previously mailed in his donations but wanted to visit the site in person.

The mission has a rule - explained in large lettering on the mission's door - asking all males to removed headcoverings inside the facility, and mission directors asked him to remove the turban. Khera refused to do so because he wears it all day as part of his religion.

Union Mission officials claim Khera was disruptive and simply wanted to argue, although the 54-year-old said he calmly tried to explain that he was there to give a donation.

"We have policy and he didn't want to abide by it," said the Rev. Ron Weeks, the mission's executive director. "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 if Khera wants to continue donating, he should send it by mail or donate to someone else.

Florence Williams, the mission's in-take director who initially denied Khera access, said she was sorry it happened and that she was not trying to disrespect Khera's faith.

"The sign says on the door all males take off their (headcovers)," she said. "This is a church."

Khera said he will talk with the Halifax County Department of Social Services about another place to make his donation.

"I just want to be heard," he said. "We need more education about other religions. In our temple we read everything, we don't go by one. We do everything in praise of God."