Thursday, June 7, 2001

Sign permits challenge
city’s application of
state-church separation

The issue: A city agency and a state
legislator face allegations that they have
risked violating the First Amendment's
separation of church and state.

IN writing the First Amendment, our founding fathers left a hazy area between forbidding government establishment of religion and protecting religious freedom. More than two centuries later, government officials still are puzzled. City officials have obligingly opened a Pandora's box by indicating it will approve the placement on church property of a cross taller than city regulations allow for commercial signs.

Meanwhile, a state legislator has been targeted with overblown charges by a separation-of-church-and-state activist that he acted improperly when informing Kaiser High School students of a baccalaureate service.

The 20-foot-high cross was planted next to St. Jude Catholic Church near the the H-1 freeway's Makakilo-Kapolei off-ramp. Randall Fujiki, director of the city Planning and Permitting Department has indicated the cross will be allowed to stand because it is not a commercial sign.

If that is true, Fujiki also must approve applications by Michael Golojuch Jr. to post two intersecting circles containing diagonally upward arrows near his Makakilo townhouse to proclaim his homosexuality, and by Andrew Crothier to erect a pentagram on his Manoa property as a symbol of Satanism. The two men obviously submitted their applications to place Fujiki in a tough spot, which he created for himself and perhaps the City Council.

The city is left with the choice of approving or rejecting all three applications, or it will be inviting lawsuits that it will stand little chance of winning. (The American Civil Liberties Union is watching.) The Council should decide whether noncommercial signs should be assigned the same standards that apply to commercial ones.

Meanwhile, freshman Rep. William Stonebraker, who is Kaiser High's wrestling coach and an associate pastor at Calvary Church, has been accused of crossing the wall between church and state by sending letters inviting graduating seniors to baccalaureate services. Stonebreaker (R, Hawaii Kai) says he did not use state supplies or postage for the mailing. He also was accused of improperly holding a prayer meeting at the Capitol.

The Supreme Court repeatedly has disapproved only of governmental actions that foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion." It has allowed chaplains to lead legislators in prayer because of the "unambiguous and unbroken history of more than 200 years." The court could hardly be expected to disapprove of a single legislator's invitation to any religious gathering as a governmental establishment of religion, and the state Ethics Commission should dismiss the complaint alleging impropriety.

Beach access trumped
by restrictive parking

The issue: A City Council panel
says that a Kahala hotel need not
provide free space for the public.

When a City Council committee rejected a request that a Kahala hotel provide free parking for beachgoers, it also rejected consideration of a significant issue, that of public access to Hawaii's recreational areas. The committee as well as the full Council should rethink that decision because the hotel's prohibitive parking rates essentially limit access. Hawaii's shorelines should be accessible everyone.

The matter emerged in a hearing for a permit for the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel to expand its facilities, which the committee approved. The Sierra Club and a Kaimuki resident, Reese Liggett, asked that the committee require the hotel to provide free parking for nonguests who want to use the shoreline.

The hotel charges $2 for self-parking and $4 for valet parking, for four hours, both with validation. Without validation, the charge is $3 for a half hour. Other parking is available on the streets off the hotel property or at Waialae Beach Park, but the beach's distance from these areas is about a half mile, making access difficult, especially for families with young children and for elderly people.

The issue isn't one that is limited to the hotel. At Velzyland on Oahu's North Shore, beach users and surfers are worried that a proposed gated community will keep them from the shoreline. Although public rights-of-way are now required by state and city laws, the location of public parking areas could effectively limit access.

The Kahala hotel contends that its walkways provide adequate access to the beach, but accessibility is compromised if nearby parking isn't available. The hotel may feel a right of ownership to the beach since it dredged and put in the sand for it and maintains the surrounding area. But if it is to be allowed to profit from its shoreline location, it should be willing to share the precious resource with the community.

Meanwhile, the Council and the committee should recognize that walkways and paths are not the only elements to consider in protecting the public's right to its beaches.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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