State Constitution is clear
on wording of the police oath


The Honolulu Police Department has been flooded with e-mail and phone calls after dropping the phrase "so help me God" to comply with the law.

THOSE who are inundating the Honolulu Police Department with complaints after it removed the phrase "so help me God" from the oath it administers to new officers are off the mark with their annoyance and anger. The department is simply complying with the Hawaii Constitution and is doing nothing to malign or challenge anyone's belief in the Christian God.

Police Chief Lee Donohue's announcement last Monday that the department would use the oath of office as it is printed in the state Constitution followed a grievance by a group that has repeatedly challenged the use of the word God in all manner of government and public documents and publications.

In response, HPD has been deluged with 3,600 e-mails from Hawaii residents and people across the country and has fielded dozens of telephone calls, urging the department to restore the phrase. It cannot do so without flouting the law.

Since 1991, HPD had been using an oath formalized in its Standards of Conduct that includes the phrase. However, the Constitution stipulates that all public employees with police powers take an oath that does not include the words "so help me God." Donohue says no other county in the United States uses the phrase or the word.

A department spokeswoman said the protesting e-mails are mostly form letters, indicating an organized effort to arouse complaints rather than individuals being moved to do so. A local Christian group says it is not taking part in that effort, but is urging its members in HPD to ask Donohue to reconsider.

It remains unclear if the officers who took the 1991 oath are considered duly sworn. This has not been raised as an issue, but government lawyers should be examining the question to clarify the matter. They also should address the obvious question of whether new police officers may add "so help me God," or other words, voluntarily when reciting the oath.

Whatever the case, the constitutional wording is correct. No one should be compelled to swear to a supreme being of a religion he or she may not embrace. If the 1991 oath were to be worded as "so help me Allah" or "so help me Lord Krishna," there would surely be a flood of complaints. The oath as specified constitutionally properly conveys the neutrality and secular purposes of the duties of police officers.


It’s time to pay piper
and rest of the band


The City Council considers reviving a fee for Royal Hawaiian Band performances at Aloha Boat Days.

FOR three years, the city has waived a fee normally charged for Royal Hawaiian Band's performances at Aloha Boat Days. The idea was to provide encouragement for the cruise line industry as it established itself in Hawaii. However, after three years and hundreds of free concerts, the City Council should end the subsidy.

The $300 fee was waived in 1999 when former City Councilwoman Rene Mansho pushed for boat days and asked that the city not charge the nonprofit group set up to run the program that welcomes ship passengers with music and dance. Mansho is now serving prison time after pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds and city staff for non-city functions, one of which was boat days.

The city usually charges $1,200 an hour when the band plays at private functions. Boat day programs run about a half hour or longer, so the $300 fee represents a sizable discount.

Councilman Jon Yoshimura, who introduced a bill to re-establish the fee, says the waiver "was a good way for the city to show our support," but that after three years, "it's time for the industry to provide its fair share."


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

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533;

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