Friday, September 27, 2002

City & County of Honolulu

HPD oath change
prompts protests

Thousands of e-mails urge the
speedy return of "so help me God"

By Nelson Daranciang

The Honolulu Police Department has been bombarded with telephone calls, e-mails and letters from all over the country urging it to retain the phrase "so help me God" in its oath.

"Our Web site has received 3,600 e-mails, the majority saying keep it in," Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue said yesterday.

The department announced Monday that it is dropping the last four words from its oath in response to a complaint from Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church filed with the Honolulu Police Commission.

New officers graduating from recruit class Tuesday will be the first to recite the oath without the phrase.

Donohue's office also received several dozen telephone calls in the past two days from people urging him to retain the language in the oath, said Michelle Yu, Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman. "Some were very passionate," she said.

Donohue noted that the phrase "so help me God" does not comply with the oath for public law enforcement officers established in the Hawaii Constitution and does not appear in the oaths of the other county police departments.

Donohue also pointed out that a Bible is no longer used to swear in people as witnesses in court.

HPD earlier removed a biblical passage and poems containing religious references from its Web site in response to another complaint.

The e-mails are so numerous that HPD officials have not been able to open all of them, Yu said. She said most are form letters.

The Hawaii Christian Coalition is not responsible for the e-mail campaign but may start its own, said Garret Hashimoto, coalition chairman.

"This angers me, but we can't do anything unless the police department decides to fight it. I've been telling our people in the Police Department to ask Donohue to reconsider. I think that's the only thing we can do right now. Actually, it's none of our business," Hashimoto said.

Donohue said all he can tell people is that the department will do what is required by the Constitution.

Donohue declined to release the contents of the letters. The Star-Bulletin also has received numerous comments protesting the change in the oath.

Honolulu Police Department

E-mail to City Desk


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