Why did Andy Kim funder shut down a Sikh Temple?

Remember back on April 18th, when Andy Kim held a fundraiser at a big-deal law firm in Cherry Hill.  It looks like he tried to hide what he was doing.  He didn't put it on his campaign's Facebook page.  No pictures, no report on who the host committee was or what fat cats showed up with their checkbooks.  But here's the invitation below.  Note who it is paid by...

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Now it turns out that one of the hosts at this big-deal campaign cash event was none other than Gregg A. Shivers.  This guy is a very big-deal trial attorney who has brought in some pretty good settlements for his firm.  That said, members of the Sikh community were not at all happy with his actions a few years back. 

We found this in the Sikh Times (www.sikhtimes.com) which covers "noteworthy news and analysis from around the world" and "in-depth coverage of issues concerning the global Sikh community including self-determination, democracy, human rights, civil liberties, antiracism, religion, and South Asian geopolitics."  The story cites "dlevinsky@phillyburbs.com and mmathis@phillyburbs.com" and the Courier-Post of April 26, 2005.  This is what it states:

A judge has temporarily closed a Sikh temple in Springfield at which several members were stabbed during a dispute over church leadership.

Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Bookbinder shut down the temple pending a hearing this week in a civil lawsuit the Sikh organization filed last year.

Issues in the ongoing civil case apparently led to the melee Friday night inside the Gurdwara Sahib Temple at 1040 Old York Road.

Five members were slashed with kirpans, or crescent-shaped ceremonial knives worn in a belt.

Two members - K. Singh Sandhu, 40, of Yardley, Pa., and Alamjit Singh Gill, 39, of the first block of Chambord Lane in Voorhees - were charged with aggravated assault.

Bookbinder has jurisdiction over the civil case but not the criminal charges.

Khalsa Darbar of South Jersey, Inc., the organization that operates the temple, had sought a temporary restraining order in December against what it said were dissident, disruptive members.

Bookbinder issued the order but has continued to work with both sides over the past four months to reach a resolution.

The stabbings occurred two days after the two sides had agreed to appoint a mediator to settle their differences.

The judge closed the temple on the recommendation of Gregg A. Shivers, a security custodian Bookbinder appointed on Saturday after learning of the stabbings.

Bookbinder decided there was an imminent danger based on the findings of Shivers, a former assistant Burlington County prosecutor.

Now not everyone will agree with us, but we feel it is a very slippery slope to allow judges to close down houses of worship.  And according to the Burlington County Times (October 28, 2005) the temple was still closed six months later...

MOUNT HOLLY -- Six months after a judge closed a Sikh temple in Springfield following a brawl among members, the factions in the dispute are no closer to resolving their differences.

A court-appointed attorney said yesterday the disagreement over the future of Gurdwara Khalsa Darbar temple on Old York Road might not be settled until next year, following a trial.

One faction filed a lawsuit against the other last year involving finances and control of the board of directors

Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Bookbinder ordered the temple closed April 21, a day after a legal dispute involving two factions seeking control of the temple erupted into violence.

The two factions have said the disagreement centers on whether members of the temple's governing body need to make payments to repay construction loans for the temple and religious matters related to Friday evening ceremonies.

The plaintiffs recently asked Bookbinder to reopen the temple but later withdrew the request, said Gregg Shivers, a court-appointed attorney. Bookbinder appointed Shivers to take temporary control of temple finances and to devise a security plan in advance of the reopening.

Shivers and attorneys for both factions spoke with Bookbinder via telephone yesterday to discuss whether the temple could be reopened, but no agreement was reached, Shivers said.

Bookbinder scheduled another conference in the case for Nov. 9, but Shivers said it was unlikely the dispute would be settled.

Several mediation attempts to settle the disagreement with a former appeals court judge and a Superior Court Assignment Judge in Atlantic County were unsuccessful.

"The temple is going to remain closed until the trial," Shivers said.

Leaders from both factions have said they would worship in the interim at private homes or other Sikh temples in the area. Sikhs typically attend services Friday and Sunday nights.

When the dispute erupted in violence in April, five people suffered minor wounds inflicted by crescent-shaped ceremonial knives, called kirpans, part of the religious dress of some Sikhs. More than 100 people were involved in the fight.

The Sikh religion was founded more than 500 years ago in the Punjab region of India. Based on the teachings of 10 gurus, its principles include belief in God, equality of mankind, elimination of social inequality and the value of family and honest work.

The temple opened in December 2002 with about 150 members.

On January 2, 2007, the Burlington County Times reported:

MOUNT HOLLY -- A dispute involving a Sikh temple in Springfield shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

It's been almost two years since a judge ordered Gurdwara Khalsa Darbar temple on Old York Road closed, and the two sides involved in the disagreement appear as far apart as ever and no closer to resolving their differences.

The house of worship remained closed until July 20, 2007 -- two and a half years.

Of course, we invite Mr. Shivers to provide us with his perspective on this issue.  We will publish it in full.  But here are three questions we think it worth considering:

(1) Have such actions been taken against more "established" or less "exotic" faiths in New Jersey?  Have churches been shut down under similar protective orders?

(2) Depriving a people of their house of worship for 2 1/2 years seems extreme to us.  Was there no way to allow for the safe conduct of services, at separate times,  by both disputing parties?  

(3) In the future, could we see judges -- for the best apparent reasons -- using such precedents to build cases to close down other houses of worship?  To prevent "bullying", perhaps?  To mediate "perceived" harm or "potential" harm?

As it was his fundraiser, maybe candidate Andy Kim would like to comment?  Then perhaps we could hear from the incumbent?

A curious note:  Democrat Governor Phil Murphy designated April as Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month.  The state's attorney general is a Sikh.  Gurbir Grewal is the first Sikh-American Attorney General in United States history.   

He was formerly the county prosecutor of Bergen County, where he was the first Sikh American to be named a county prosecutor in the United States.  It does make one wonder if the same sanctions would be imposed today, as in 2005-07.