Tuesday, May 8, 2001

The cross at St. Jude's in Makakilo can be seen from the highway.
It will remain despite opposition from Hawaii Citizens for
the Separation of State and Church.

Decision to let
St. Jude’s emblem
stand leaves some
feeling cross

The city stands by the
church's right to keep the
Christian symbol

By Rosemarie Bernardo

The Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church wants the city to order the removal of the 20-foot white cross at St. Jude Catholic Church in Makakilo, charging that it violates zoning standards.

But the cross at 92-455 Makakilo Drive will remain intact, said Randall Fujiki, director of the city Planning and Permitting Department.

Fujiki said crosses are not considered commercial signs and have been exempted from the building code since the regulations were first established in 1969. "Crosses are not considered advertising," he said.

The cross also does not exceed the 25-foot height limit for signs under the zoning code, Fujiki said.

Mitchell Kahle, president of the Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, sent a letter to the Planning Department and the corporation counsel last week seeking removal of the cross.

He says the cross is a sign of Christianity and the city is violating the First Amendment for granting an exemption.

Part of Kahle's letter states, "the purpose of zoning ordinances is because large signs seriously detract from the enjoyment and pleasure of the natural scenic beauty in the city." Also, "there was no permit for the cross to be erected," Kahle said.

The cross can be seen by motorists traveling Waianae-bound on the H-1 freeway.

A Makakilo resident contacted Kahle after reading a Star-Bulletin story about a temporary 30-foot-tall cross erected at Hope Chapel in Kailua during Easter. It has since been dismantled.

Kahle said the resident was told by planning officials that the cross is a religious symbol and is not considered a sign.

"That is absurd," Kahle said. "We don't have one set of laws for churches and one set of laws for everybody else."

But parishioner John Coughlin was told by the Planning Department that a permit was not needed. "It was determined that it didn't require or follow the criteria of a sign," said Coughlin. "It's a symbol of who we are and what we are."

Patrick Downs, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese in Honolulu, said, "It seems ironic that the cross would offend people considering what the cross represents: compassion and self-sacrifice."

"But we do live in a democracy," he said.

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