Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, March 10, 1999

Here’s to separation
of me and Mitch

AS much as I know I'm going to regret this, and I'm regretting it already, I'm going to take one more shot at explaining why I refuse to talk to Mitchell Kahle about the separation of church and state.

I pointed out in a column last week that Mitch, head of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, is rather selective in his outrage about alleged government support of religion. He's upset that a state senator put the Christian symbol of a fish on his office door but seems to have no problem with the installation of statues of a Hawaiian god at Fort DeRussy. And I noted that an anti-Christian bias seems to be a recurring theme in Mitch's battles. Because of this bias, along with the self-anointed nature of Mitch's position as chief protector the First Amendment's church/state clause, I merely said that I personally choose not to talk to him.

That's it. I didn't say I was against the concept of separation of church and state. I didn't say that the senator should be allowed to keep his little fishy symbol on the government-owned door. I didn't say Mitch doesn't have a right to be a self-proclaimed anti-religious zealot. I didn't even say that the Hawaiian statues should be removed from Fort DeRussy.

All I said was that because Mitch has a record of bias, some might say bigotry, against a specific religion, I don't choose to discuss the matter with him. It's an important subject and I choose to discuss it with whom I want, preferably people with no hidden agenda.

But Mitch seems to be incapable of allowing any discussion of the issue without his involvement. I specifically asked that he not call me, knowing, of course, this would be a physical impossibility for him. And it was. He called twice and e-mailed once. He invited me to debate him on television. He asked me to return his calls. He is, metaphorically, jumping out of his skin at the idea that he cannot control this discussion.

So, you see, he proved my point. It is the messenger, not the message, I refuse to engage.

Now, some of his supporters have said this is not fair. And considering Mitch's reaction to one little old newspaper column, I have to admit he seems to be suffering cruel and unusual punishment. But then I remembered that I am the self-appointed head of the Worldwide I Hate Mayonnaise Club. I started the club. I have a Web site. I have members all over the world. I am loved, adored and, dare I say it, have been canonized by the mayo-hating world. If there is a discussion of hating mayonnaise, I want to be there. But do I see it as my divine right? Do I call radio stations and bully myself into the discussions? Do I express righteous indignation if I am kept out of no-mayo debates? No. It's a free country.

I don't know Mitch. I don't have to know him. It is not mandatory to know him to write about this issue any more than I need to know Jimmy Swaggart to discuss hypocritical right-wing evangelists.

I'm glad Mitch has the love and support of his fans, who have buried me in some extremely insulting e-mail recently. Mitch himself referred to this paper sarcastically as the "Honolulu Church-Bulletin," which is a personal derogatory attack of a religious nature against a private business and has nothing to do with the separation of church and state. Substitute the word "synagogue" and the remark likely would be considered anti-Semitic.

At the very least, the "Church-Bulletin" remark exposes a specific religious prejudice unrelated to any position he may hold regarding the Constitution.

Of course, Mitch is perfectly free under the same Constitution to express such prejudices. And I'm free to choose not to talk to him about it.

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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