One of Britain’s largest Gurdwara’s is being sued for discriminating against elderly and disabled worshippers.
The Sikh Forum of Wolverhampton is leading the lawsuit against the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Blakenhall, Wolverhampton after worshippers in wheelchairs were allegedly barred from the main prayer room or Darbar Sahib because they are unable to observe the custom of sitting on the floor.
Others were made to sit behind screens in the Gurdwara’s dining hall.
The Forum has filed legal papers with the Birmingham County Court and say it has so far raised £5000 to support the lawsuit.
The claimants have received the backing of British Sikh MP Paul Uppal, among others.
In a letter written in support of the legal action, Mr Uppal says: “Since seating was removed in 2012 I understand that these members of the congregation have found it increasingly difficult to sit on the floor in the Darbar Sahib to listen and partake in prayers.”
“It is incumbent upon me to remind the management committee that in many of the congregation’s views, this is perceived as discrimination and is understandably causing considerable concern to congregation members, as well as not complying with national legislation.”
Rajinder Bassi, chairman of the Sikh Forum Wolverhampton, said the Gurdwara’s treatment of disabled people was “degrading”.
“What is happening to disabled and older people is degrading. They are missing out on the spiritual aspect and want to be able to join others upstairs. There’s nothing in our faith that says the temple should do this”, said Mr Bassi.
The management of the Gurdwara said that no one was being excluded and that more facilities for disabled worshippers will be provided under plans for a £2 million revamp.
A spokesman told the Express and Star: “The services are provided in line with Sikh traditions where all are welcome to visit and pray at the Gurdwara Sahib. We make as far as possibly practical reasonable adjustments that are also consistent with our practices to accommodate people with disabilities taking account of our faith’s traditions.
“The Gurdwara is governed by direction from Akaal Takhat Sahib Jee – the Sikh Supreme Authority and this is written within the Gurdwara constitution registered with the Charities Commission since its establishment in 1969.
“In line with the Sikh principles of worship and serving the community through its open door policy for all regardless of gender, age, race, wealth or faith including those of no faith. The Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee have over the years provided a series of ‘reasonable adjustments’ which cater for those who are unable to be seated in the two main areas of the Gurdwara, these being the Darbar Sahib where the religious programmes are held and the Langar Hall where the congregation are served blessed food and also socialise with family and friends.
“These provisions will be modernised once the approved new building costing nearly two million pounds is constructed this year.”