The new Sikh Temple in south Lodi has a 60-foot-high canary-yellow banner with the faith's emblem, but some Lodi residents wonder why there isn't an American flag to go with it.
"It's almost a slap in the face as an American and as veterans," said Lodi resident Robin Sarisky. "You're an American first; then everything else falls under that."
Sikh temple leaders say that they don't mean to offend anyone. In fact, the banner isn't really a flag, according to two Lodi Sikh board members, Nirmal Samra and John Takhar.
It's a symbol of their religion, not India, the country where a majority of Sikhs were born.
"That's what American people should understand. It's not a flag," Samra said. "It's like a cross in the Christian church."
The universal Sikh symbol is a glyph (called a Khanda) composed of a central, straight-edged sword, symbolizing truth, surrounded by two curved swords representing temporal power and authority, according to about.com.
Sikh members are confused if some people are offended by their banner. They maintain the banner at the temple doesn't show preference to their native country. It's symbolizes their religion.
"It sure looks like a flag, and they have it on a great big colorful flag pole," Sarisky said. "They can call it whatever they want."
Although Sikhs haven't been linked to terrorism, Sarisky said that Sikhs should make a greater effort to embrace American ideals and display the American flag.
Takhar said temple leaders will soon erect an American flag at the corner of the temple property at the northeast corner of Armstrong Road and West Lane.
"We're very pro-America," Takhar said.
Gerry Sarisky, the husband of Robin Sarisky, and another Lodi resident, Dennis Regan, wrote letters to the News-Sentinel this year to express their disappointment that an American flag isn't also displayed at the Sikh temple.
Protocol concerning the use of the American flag is that it must be higher than a state flag or the flag of any other symbol.
"It's a brand new temple," Gerry Sarisky said. "I'm sure they could have had a contractor construct a pole one foot higher (for an American flag). It is a way to show people in good faith that they are Americans."
Bill Pfeiffle, ex-commander of Lockeford Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he doesn't see a problem with flying a church banner without an American flag.
It is usually mounted on a long, steel pole (which is also covered with saffron-colored cloth) headed with a Khanda.
The Sikh banner is often seen near the entrance to the Gurdwara, or temple, standing firmly on the platform, overlooking the whole building.
"There are many ways you can approach these topics," Pfeiffle said.
An assistant professor of history and religious study at University of California, Davis, said he sees no problem with hanging a religious banner without an American flag.
"It's not like they're hanging the Indian flag there," said professor Baki Tezcan. "The Sikhs cannot represent a nation. It is an unfortunate controversy, as far as I can tell."
But Robin Sarisky notes that St. Peter Lutheran School, where her daughter attends, has the American flag flying above the Christian flag. The Christian flag is white and blue with a red cross. The white represents purity and faith, and blue represents faithfulness, truth and sincerity, said former St. Peter Principal Peter Woodward, who is now a deacon. Red is the color of sacrifice.
One reason the banner is about 60 feet high, Takhar said, is so that Sikhs driving through San Joaquin County can see the symbol from Highway 99 or Interstate 5. The banner would let out-of-town Sikhs know where the temple is located in case they want to visit, Takhar said.