Hawaii State Senate Ends Daily Prayer January 24, 2011

Hawaii State Senate Ends Daily Prayer

The Hawaii state Senate has voted to no longer hold a daily prayer.

What’s amazing is how Hawaii is only the first state to do this.

And what prompted this decision? One person’s complaint about how this was a Christian-specific prayer, not an “all-inclusive” prayer like so many city councils and state legislatures pretend to use.

A citizen’s complaint had prompted the American Civil Liberties Union last summer to send the Senate a letter noting that its invocations often referenced Jesus Christ, contravening the separation of church and state.

That prompted the state attorney general’s office to advise the Senate that their handling of prayers — by inviting speakers from various religions to preach before every session — wouldn’t survive a likely court challenge, said Democratic Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria.

This is not anti-religion. This is about keeping government and religion separate, just as it should be, and just as the Constitution demands it to be.

Of course, Christian groups are complaining. As far as I can tell, no non-Christian group opposes this measure. It’s just an admission that the prayers were directed at the Christian god only:

“They (the ACLU) continue to threaten governments with lawsuits to try to force them into capitulating to their view of society,” said Brett Harvey, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, made up of Christian lawyers to defend free faith speech. “Governments should take a stand for this cherished historical practice.”

“Their view of society”?

You mean the one that follows the law? The one that defends the Constitution? The one that shows respect for people of all faiths and no faith?

Yeah… clearly, the ACLU hates America.

Republican state Senator Sam Slom wants to keep the prayer intact for a ridiculous reason:

“As intelligent as we may be, we can still call on someone higher to help us and guide us.”

You can… but no one’s going to listen.

Maybe if you spent more time figuring out what would help your constituents and less time talking to the air, you’d be guided in the right direction.

I think a lot of thanks go to people like Mitch Kahle, who risked jailtime for protesting the illegal prayers — he was found not guilty of disorderly conduct last month.

Now that we know the complaints and protests work, let’s get rid of Christian prayers and faux-secular invocations in all the other states, too.

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  • Adam

    History is not always right. 230 years of illegal tradition is still illegal. Hundreds of years of slavery was a tradition, too. But no sensible person will say that slavery is still moral. And while the issues are less comparable in severity, the fact still stands that for the Constitution to hold merit, it has to stand behind all parts of it. Ironically, like the Bible. You can’t pick and choose.

  • Justin

    Maybe if you spent more time figuring out what would help your constituents and less time talking to the air, you’d be guided in the right direction.


    Sit down with your constituents and ask them what help they need. Listen to their complaints and criticisms and take them seriously. When you make promises, keep them. Bowing your head and asking a non-existent being for answers isn’t going to help one iota. If you want to ask your invisible friend in your own private time that’s ok but when you’re on the clock be a little more practical when it comes to finding solutions to problems.

  • Mihangel apYrs

    I wonder if they would have allowed this one?

    “Great Satan, lord of the world, into whose hand all things temporal have been placed, hear our prayer…”

  • “Christian lawyers to defend free faith speech”

    That is a telling description. Not “free speech” – just “free faith speech”.

    A bit like a dictatorship supporting “free pro-government speech”.


  • coyotenose

    I have a question. The city of High Point, North Carolina, and Forsyth County near me are both embroiled to some degree in moronic “prayers at public meetings” debates. High Point has a nonsectarian prayer policy, and a city council member is grandstanding about returning to Christian prayers, which the council abandoned years ago. It won’t happen, because the other eight members have brains, albeit very soft ones. A federal judge told Forsyth they couldn’t have references to Jeebus and gave them several options including nonsectarian prayers.

    But why are even nonsectarian prayers allowed? The law isn’t about compromises.

  • @coyotenose:

    Current Supreme Court precedent allows nonsectarian prayer in at least state and the national legislature as a nod to longstanding tradition. Sound like an incredibly weak legal rationale? It is. The dissenting justice in the preeminent case boggled that the Court didn’t even pretend to apply its normal Establishment Clause analysis. We should keep challenging these things all over (not least because they ususally aren’t really nonsectarian), but the underlying law won’t be overturned anytime soon.

  • Mihangel apYrs

    I have a feeling many members of he bench of SCOTUS pray in the robing room before coming on stage

  • the lesson here is that legal challenges and activism work. thank you, Mitch and ACLU.

  • Bob

    If you can’t do the job without praying to a non-existant deity … you can’t do the job, period.

  • ACN


    If I’m thinking of the case/argument correctly, this is the now famous “Ceremonial Deism” argument. Whereby the majority opinion claimed (written by Sandra Day O’Connor?) claimed that prayer and references to god are allowed as long as it is in the context of a “Ceremonial Deism”. However, it doesn’t seem as a deist or a dictionary was consulted on the issue as:

    …is an odd name for a ritual affirmation that a Deist would be very reluctant to endorse, since Deists think of God as a rational causal principle but not as a personal judge and father.

    You can read a little more about it here.

  • Ibis


    And while the issues are less comparable in severity, the fact still stands that for the Constitution to hold merit, it has to stand behind all parts of it. Ironically, like the Bible. You can’t pick and choose.

    I don’t suggest treating your constitution like a holy document handed down from on high, whole and perfect. It was drafted by fallible men in a specific historical time period. You can indeed pick and choose to change or overturn parts of it. If these people want to get rid of the establishment clause, however, they should try to do it through legal amendment channels rather than by ignoring it altogether.

  • Poor ol’ Sam Slom. The Slom Ranger. The only Republican in our State Senate. Which is probably why getting rid of the prayer worked. A good day in the Aloha State.

  • Cthuhlu

    One down forty-nine states to go

  • coyotenose

    Thanks for the help y’all! Looking at it, it’s amazing how desperate the judges involved were to find an excuse that justified their desired outcome. Their rationalizing actually undermines the belief of the prayer advocates while simultaneously exploiting and misrepresenting Deism.

    This would be some actual judicial activism, as opposed to the mythical sort the Republican Party keeps yammering about.

    Why don’t they just go ahead and name this coercive prayer according to its intended function: Exclusionary Voodoo. They could save everyone so much time.

  • Rich Wilson


  • Michelle Duvall

    Yes, looks like the ACLU has triumphed on this one. I don’t think I will be visiting Hawaii again. Don’t want to invest my dollars into a state that wants to push the envelope as far as Jesus goes. It is such a beautiful place. Feels like paradise. Too bad it is illegal to acknowlege the creator publicly. I guess people only care about such things in the event of a catastrophe. May God have mercy on us all.

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