Thursday, April 26, 2001

13-year-old Paul McWilliams strolled up the hill to
visit the Easter Cross at Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay
last night. The cross will soon be dismantled.

Group wants
removal of 30-foot
Kaneohe cross

The church says the
cross was put up only
for the Easter weekend

By Rosemarie Bernardo

A group advocating separation of church and state has called for the dismantling of a 30-foot cross outside a Kaneohe church, which intends to take down the temporary cross.

"Not only is the cross a blight on the landscape, there was no permit to erect the cross," said Mitchell Kahle, president of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church.

Kahle filed a complaint with the city Planning and Permitting Department and the Outdoor Circle yesterday to "order the immediate removal of the offending sign" from the grounds of the Hope Chapel.

"The cross is oversized," he said.

According to residential zoning regulations, the maximum size for a sign is 24 square feet. Also, a city permit is required.

The cross stands 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide on Hope Chapel's property, which comprises nine acres at 45-815 Pookela St.

"The sign also has a fixed-lighting system, when illuminated signs are not permitted in residential areas," Kahle said.

The Rev. Rob McWilliams said he was unaware of the regulations and intends to have members of Hope Chapel dismantle the cross by the end of the week.

Members of the church erected the cross before Easter weekend.

"We never considered it a sign," he said. "We had no intention of leaving it up permanently. It was purely seasonal."

Kahle said: "The giant cross can be seen from nearly every high point in the Windward Kaneohe area. At night the lighted cross dominates the view along the Koolau Mountains."

Officials of the Planning and Permitting Department were unavailable for comment.

The church sits on private property, but similar cases took place on government property in past years.

In 1997 a 37-foot cross at Schofield Barracks' Kolekole Pass was dismantled as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Hawaii State Citizens for the Separation of State and Church against the Army. The suit charged the cross was a violation of the First Amendment. That cross was replaced with an 80-foot flagpole.

In 1988 the American Civil Liberties Union and the Jewish War Veterans filed a lawsuit that ended in the removal of a 65-foot cross at Camp Smith.

McWilliams said he was not aware of Kahle's complaint.

"We weren't trying to be a lightning rod," he said. "We were just putting it up for the community."

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