Group protests prayer
printed in HFD guide

Critics say the use of "God"
violates church-state separation

By Leila Fujimori

The Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church is demanding a recall of 24,000 copies of a fire safety guide because a firefighter's prayer includes the word "God."

Mitchell Kahle, president of the group, sent a letter of complaint yesterday to the Honolulu Fire Department. Kahle said the prayer violates the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. It is also "sexist with respect to women firefighters and exclusionary for gay and single firefighters," he said.

The prayer, printed on the inside back cover, reads in part: "Whenever I am called to duty, God ... Give me the strength to save some life ... And if according to Your Will I have to lose my life ... Please bless my children and my wife."

HFD Chief Attilio Leonardi said the guide was prepared by the Fire Department.

Leonardi said no action will be taken until he receives an opinion from the city attorney.

The prayer is used by firefighters across the nation, he said.

"We heavily use the firefighter's prayer," he said, including at all firefighters' funerals, at Sept. 11 functions and in interdepartmental programs.

"It's always been part of the heritage of the Fire Department," he said, adding it has been used for years.

The complaint was prompted by a call Kahle received from a woman who picked up the booklet from Windward Mall and was annoyed by the inclusion of a prayer in a government publication, Kahle said.

"The prayer is only for straight male firefighters, and they've excluded everybody else," said Michael Golojuch Jr., project coordinator of Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

But firefighter Debbie Wayman does not feel excluded. "When the prayer was developed, there were no women in the firehouse," she said. "It's a beautiful prayer. It ended much nicer when it ended 'my children and my wife.' When they tried to change it to 'my children and my spouse,' it really lost something for me."

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