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January 24, 2011

Hawaiian Senate Ends Daily Prayers

A unanimous voice vote spikes potential challenge over "decidedly Christian" invocations.

Hawaii’s state Senate is the first state legislature in the United States to end the practice of daily invocations, the Associated Press reported on Friday.

The decision stems from a discussion that began late last summer, when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to the Senate. The ACLU passed on complaints it had received about the Senate having opened with "decidedly Christian" prayers, complete with "references to Jesus Christ."

"Prayers that invoke specific aspects of one religion or denomination risk an impermissible entanglement of church and state," wrote Daniel Gluck of ACLU Hawaii.

Earlier in 2010, Senate security had forcibly removed Mitch Kahle, the leader of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, after he verbally objected to the April 29th invocation. A District Court judge found Kahle not guilty of disorderly conduct.

In September, the Senate convened a three-person committee to examine the issue. The state attorney general's office advised them that the prayers would not likely survive a court challenge. When the 2011 session convened on Wednesday, the Senate opened with its first and last invocation this year, a Hawaiian-language "song of prayer" from Hawaiian singer Danny Kaleikini (one of a number of entertainers who performed that day).

The next day, in a unanimous voice vote, the Senate ended the prayers. The only opposition came from the 25-member body's one Republican, Sam Slom of Diamond Head. Slom recommended making the prayers voluntary instead of eliminating them entirely. "I think it's important that we stress the need that as smart as we may be, as intelligent as we may be, that we can still call on someone higher to help us and guide us," he said.

While some commentators hail the decision as a victory for separation of church and state, the Alliance Defense Fund argued, "Governments should take a stand for this cherished historical practice."

Comments

Wait for it. Hawaii is going to sink into the sea in 5, 4, 3...

That's appalling and embarrassment for our whole beautiful state! We must spread the word and get rid of our so called elected politicians! Including our Governor for allowing this to happen.

MT 6:5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

MT 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

MT 6:7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

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