Gill Parker Payne, 37, of Gastonia, North Carolina, pleaded guilty today in the District of New Mexico to one count of using force or threat of force to intentionally obstruct a Muslim woman, identified as K.A., in the free exercise of her religious beliefs.Sentencing is pending.
According to court documents, on Dec. 11, 2015, Payne and K.A. were on board a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Albuquerque, New Mexico. K.A. was wearing a religious headscarf, known as a hijab. Payne was seated several rows behind K.A. on the airplane, and did not know her. Payne admitted that he saw that K.A. was wearing a hijab and was aware that it is a religious practice of Muslim women to wear a headscarf.
Payne further admitted that shortly before landing, but while still in-flight, he walked up the aisle to where K.A. was sitting and stopped next to her seat. Payne proceeded to tell K.A. to take off her hijab, stating something to the effect of, “Take it off! This is America!” Payne then grabbed the back of the hijab and pulled it all the way off, leaving K.A.’s entire head exposed. As a result, K.A. felt violated and quickly pulled the hijab back up and covered her head again.
14 May 2016
"Take it off! This is America!"
As reported by the United States Department of Justice: