Last summer, in their ongoing effort to promote secularism above religion, ACLU sent a complaint to the Hawaii senate that their invocations often referenced Jesus Christ (much like all American congressional prayers since the beginning of our history), and were in violation of that shadowy phrase “separation of church and state.”
Their complaint prompted advice from the state attorney general’s office which was that if Hawaii’s handling of prayers was brought up in a court case, they wouldn’t win.
A three-member Senate committee was formed to evaluate the issue and recommended that as long as there was no mention of Jesus Christ, prayers would be acceptable at their sessions. Rather than be constrained, however, the legislative body decided to halt the prayers altogether, which is fine with the ACLU.
Mitch Kahle, known for his demonstrations against Good Friday as a government-endorsed holiday at the state Capitol, also known for forcing the Army to remove a 37-foot cross at Schofield Barracks in 1997, and founder of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, was gleeful over ACLU’s help in getting prayer removed. His comment over the decision by the Senate was, “They’re a legal body, they make the laws, and they ought to follow them.”
Kahle was arrested for his rude disruption in the middle of a Senate prayer last April and then acquitted of disorderly conduct in November.
ACLU’s attorney Brent White admires Kahle and believes the feelings of the citizens in Hawaii’s majority should be considered,
“Mitch serves a useful function and plays an important role in making sure people in public office are aware of the principles. The vast majority of people in Hawaii are not Christian, yet our government seems intent on endorsing Christianity.”
Democrat Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria (voting record) expressed, “Above all, our responsibility is to adhere to the Constitution.”
However, this decision is not holding to a standard established by our founding fathers under the Constitution from whom we inherited the blessings afforded this country. It is a change.
- For example, the first prayer in Congress included, “All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ thy son, Our Saviour, Amen.” Does anyone think George Washington was alarmed by the reference to Jesus? Does anyone think he told the Revd. Mr. Duché, “Oh, darn. You aren’t supposed to pray in the name of Jesus because of that pesky Constitution which I signed”? No, obviously he did not because obviously the prayer was not in violation of the Constitution.
Senator Will Espero also commented about the recent decision,
“I’m disappointed that we’re choosing the route of ending the invocation. I think it is a long, honored tradition at the state Capitol and at many other government events and functions. I would think that there would be a way for us to maintain that tradition.”
Hawaii’s one Senate Republican Sam Slom believes voluntary prayers to God would have been a better way to go than no prayers at all,
“The Senate must stand for something and not back away when there are challenges by individuals or organizations who make it their point nationally to have this as an objective. As intelligent as we may be, we can still call on someone higher to help us and guide us.”
Disappointed and very familiar with the ACLU’s procedures is Attorney Brett Harvey of the Alliance Defense Fund who commented,
“They (the ACLU) continue to threaten governments with lawsuits to try to force them into capitulating to their view of society. Governments should take a stand for this cherished historical practice.”
Indiana is one state that did take a stand. While the ACLU was able to halt the traditional prayers given by the Indiana House temporarily, Indiana appealed to a federal court; and the court overturned the decision. As of 2008, prayers are back in Indiana.
In Marsh v. Chambers, 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prayers at the start of each legislative day are not a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Such prayers are deeply embedded in the history and tradition of the nation.
Update: (Jan. 26) Hawaii Senators hold prayer despite vote to ban it
Yakima: For years, the Yakima City Council has prayed in public. A resident watching the prayer on television recently complained to some anti-God group.