Kolekole Pass cross
ordered dismantled

The Army says that fighting
a lawsuit against the religious icon
is too costly and impractical

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Citing the severe economic impact in maintaining the 35-year-old, 35-ton white steel cross at Schofield Barrack's Kolekole Pass, the Army today ordered it dismantled.

The Army has been under fire from the Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, which filed a federal lawsuit Sept. 11 charging the 37-foot cross, built with taxpayers' dollars in 1962, was a "blatant and obvious violation" of the First Amendment.

Maj. Gen. James T. Hill, 25th Infantry Division and U.S. Army Hawaii commander, said cost and practicality in fighting the lawsuit were reasons for taking down the cross.

Evan Shirley, attorney for Hawaii Citizens, said he hasn't been told of the Army's decision but the group is "genuinely pleased" to hear that the Army will remove the Christian icon.

"If this is true," Shirley said, "the action sends a strong message that the wall between state and church stands tall and forbids government from endorsing Christianity in particular over other religions."

The Army said it will cost as much as $60,000 this year to maintain the cross, which is no longer used for Easter Sunday sunrise services. The area is too small, and the services are now held on Cannoneer Field at Schofield Barracks.

The cross is just one of several military facilities that will have to be demolished because of severe cuts in the Army's local budget.

This is the second religious symbol it has had to give up.

A nearly identical lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Jewish War Veterans in 1988 resulted in a 65-foot cross at Camp Smith being removed.

That cross was dismantled after a federal court ruled that it violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

It was replaced with an 80-foot flagpole which still flies a 38-foot-by-20-foot American flag. A slab of the cross is preserved in a framed glass box on the wall near the entrance to Camp Smith headquarters.

The Kolekole cross was erected in 1962 and cost $4,413. Earlier versions of the cross were made of wood and were erected as early as the 1920s.

Shortly after World War II, a 25-foot wooden cross was erected, and the steel replacement has been up since 1962.

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