Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, March 5, 1999

Mitch needs to find
another calling

I'M trying to imagine the reaction of Mitchell Kahle, Hawaii's self-appointed, ever-excitable protector of the U.S. Constitution -- or at least one particular line of it -- if someone placed a statue of Jesus at Fort DeRussy.

I suspect he would go ballistic, blathering about the "separation of church and state" and how putting a statue of Jesus on a U.S. military post is tantamount to the government supporting one particular religion. He would cite his personal analysis of one-third of a sentence in the First Amendment to declare that the Jesus statue would be a constitutional violation.

That's what Mitch does. That's his job. Sure, it's a job he gave himself, but it's his thing. He's attached to an organization called Hawaii Citizens for Separation of State and Church, but that's really him, too, since any proclamation by the organization is made in HIS name and scribes are allowed to only invoke HIS image in coverage of any church/state controversy that, not surprisingly, HE instigates.

So where was Mitch this week when five statues of the Hawaiian god, Ku, were installed at Fort DeRussy? Where was his righteous indignation about the government singling out a particular religion by allowing these statues to be put on display on a military post?

Where was he? Apparently he was over at the state Capitol working himself into a froth over the symbol of a fish Sen. David Matsuura has put on his office door.

By putting a fish on his door, Matsuura is declaring that he is a Christian and therefore, the government is either establishing a religion or prohibiting one or something. It's not all that clear why one state senator putting a fish on his office door is a threat to the republic. It has something to do with using a public door to "advertise" his religion, which the Constitution clearly and very specifically says absolutely nothing about.

That's the problem with Mitch, he seems to have a hang-up about Western religions, Christianity, in particular. Crosses, the Ten Commandments, symbolic fish ... all of these have no place on government property. Hawaiian gods at Fort DeRussy, Buddha statues at the University of Hawaii and New Age symbols everywhere else are fine. He also seems to have no problem with the statue of Father Damien outside the Capitol, although I suspect he does, but even he's not crazy enough try to remove a statue of Hawaii's only contender to sainthood.

Mitch is the Jerry Falwell of the anti-church/state congregation, on a righteous crusade to rid government of the slightest wisp, hint or ethereal allusion to anything religious.

He can't wait to be offended. In fact, he'll be offended that I didn't call him before writing this column, because he believes that any discussion of this issue has to involve him.

Well, forget it, Mitch. There's another part of the Constitution a few lines directly below your favorite snippet regarding freedom of speech. I'm exercising my freedom to write about this subject without talking to you about it. So don't call me. I mean it.

For the record, the one-third of a sentence on which Mitch bases his life's work states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." That's it. It doesn't say anything about crosses, symbolic fish or statues of Hawaiian gods.

Mitch, instead of obsessing on one particular sentence in the Constitution, maybe you should embrace the spirit of the entire document, which promotes life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and being free from the tyranny of even self-appointed demagogues.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

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