According to the US Department of Justice, Gill Parker Payne, 37 of Gastonia, NC, was recently arrested on a SouthWest airline flight for ripping off a Muslim woman’s head covering (hijab) while yelling, “Take it off! This is America!” The women felt violated and quickly grabbed the hijab back to cover her head.
Payne just pled guilty this past Friday to obstructing a person’s right to exercise religious freedom. He will serve two months of home detentions as part of the plea deal.
The maximum sentence for the charge is one year in prison, a fine of $100,000, and five years of probation.
“Because I forcibly removed K.A.’s hijab, I admit that the United States can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I intentionally obstructed K.A.’s free exercise of her religious beliefs,” Payne also noted that “Because my actions occurred while the airplane was still in-flight I admit that the United States can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offense was in or affected interstate commerce.”
U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said this case “sends a clear message to anyone who contemplates the use of threats or intimidation to interfere with the right of individuals, including members of our Muslim community, to express their faith without fear.”
Do you think his punishment was fair?