Pastor has mystery Lingle ads removed from church
A Palama church is removing political banners from its fences, although the pastor says he doesn't know who put them up.
The Rev. Etvati Lafaele, pastor of the First Samoan Assembly of God church at 1420 Palama St., said the signs for Gov. Linda Lingle appeared last week.
His church enjoys a prominent location underneath the freeway at the Vineyard and Palama intersection.
"Last Sunday, I asked the congregation during our service, 'Who put those signs up there?' and nobody knew," Lafaele said.
"I told them, 'You know we are not supposed to have signs like that on our fence,' but nobody called. Maybe someone just went by and put them up there," Lafaele said.
Churches, as federally registered nonprofit organizations, are not allowed to support or endorse a political candidate. In past elections, the IRS has investigated churches that engage in repeated political activity, and in some instances churches have lost their nonprofit status.
Gov. Linda Lingle and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona both denied any knowledge of the signs, adding that they are not targeting any churches for specific campaigns.
"We don't have any particular program where we tell churches or temples or mosques what they should and shouldn't do. Clearly there are restrictions under the law," Lingle said.
Aiona added that the campaign assumes that churches and other nonprofit organization "know their limitations about what they can and cannot do."
John Heidel, spokesman for the Hawaii Interfaith Alliance, said his organization of about 20 different churches had discussed the issues of separation of church and state, but never held any educational seminars on the dos and don'ts of the IRS.