Sikh temple opens doors to new building, closes doors to controversy
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The shroud of controversy and suspicion surrounding a new Sikh temple appears to have lifted just in time for its celebrated grand opening.
It's a religion that preaches peace and acceptance of all faiths.
"Every Sikh shrine has four doors that's to represent anybody, doesn't matter which faith or religion you belong to, you could be part of us," said Dr. Inderjit Singh, Chairman of the Sikh Religious Society of SC.
But politics and faith often have very different agendas.
Last year, Governor Nikki Haley, who was born into a Sikh family, denied rumors that she and her father, the president of the Sikh Religious Society, were about to be indicted for tax fraud relating to the temple's finances.
"It is wrong," said Singh. "We have nothing to do with what's happening. We have no problem with the IRS or anybody."
Though the IRS officially denied the claims, Haley's legal team filed a lawsuit against the blogger who initiated the rumors last year. Finally, that case may be close to a resolution.
"We have an apology from that person already, that 'yes, we were given the wrong information, we're sorry about that,'" said Dr. Ajit Randhawa, President of the Sikh Religious Society of South Carolina.
"We're still trying to figure out what his motive is," said Singh. "Why he's trying to malign our temple."
Leaders of the Sikh Religious Society say at least five lawsuits filed by contractors who claim they weren't paid for their work on the temple have been resolved. And all payments made in full.
Governor Haley declined to comment on the lawsuit. And though she is no longer Sikh herself, she spent much of the day reflecting on the importance of culture and community.
"It was this community that thought me strength with grace," she told the congregation. "This is the community that shows what true love, peace and faith looks like and so I am a proud daughter of this community and a proud daughter to say these are the people that raised me."
The opening of this 6,200 square-foot structure represents the expansion of a very visible minority in South Carolina.
"This was the community that taught me service, that taught me how blessed we are to live in this country," said Haley.
There are roughly 25 million Sikhs in the world, and here in Columbia, less than 200 families.
Copyright 2013 WIS. All rights reserved.