By Brooks Baehr - bio | email
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The head of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church has been acquitted of a disorderly conduct charge stemming from his arrest while objecting a prayer being said at the beginning of a state Senate session in April.
When Senate President Colleen Hanabusa introduced a reverend to say the invocation, Mitch Kahle stood from his seat in the gallery of the Senate chambers and said, "I object. My name is Mitch Kahle and I object to this prayer on the grounds that it's a violation of the first amendment of the constitution of the United States. I object."
Kahle's protest lasted about seven seconds. Then he stopped talking and sat down. The Senate's Sergeant at Arms was determined to remove Kahle. When Kahle resisted he was forcefully removed and roughed up. The incident was caught by several video cameras including a camera belonging to Hawaii News Now.
"Then what they did to add insult to injury was, they arrested him for disorderly conduct," said William Harrison, Kahle's attorney.
"Their disorderly conduct (charge) was allegedly based upon his standing up and in the senate chambers and voicing his opinion, which he as a U.S. Citizen and a Hawaii citizen has a right to do," Harrison said.
After watching video of the arrest Harrison was sure his client would be acquitted, and he was right.
District Court judge Leslie Hayashi needed less than an hour to find Kahle not guilty.
"Number one, there was no disorderly conduct. Number two, he has a first amendment right to speak in a public forum such as he did. And number three, the legislature was violating our U.S. Constitution as well as the Hawaii constitution by having these invocations," Harrison said.
Harrison thinks this case may be enough to convince law makers to stop saying prayers during official state business.
"They make the law for the state, so they should recognize and understand what our constitution says. And in fact the court did express very much her (Hayashi's) concerns with regards to invocations in this public forum. And so the legislature, the city council, any other public entity on public property should be concerned and should heed the warning of this court in its ruling," Harrison told Hawaii News Now.
In April Kahle asked the Honolulu City Council to stop praying at its meetings, and it did. But Todd Apo has stepped down as council chair, and Kahle said the prayer returned Monday, November 22, under new chairman Nestor Garcia.