City takes church descriptions off Web site
By Jessica Webster
Advertiser Staff Writer
In the wake of criticism from the Hawai'i Citizens for Separation of State and Church, the city yesterday deleted all church descriptions from the "religion" section of its Web site and left only the links.
The city also added a link to the Satanist Church of Hawai'i.
Mitchell Kahle, president of the Hawai'i Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, criticized the city's site in a letter to Mayor Jeremy Harris, saying the U.S. Constitution prohibits religious favoritism or the promotion of religion.
"This is simply unconstitutional," said Kahle. "I say remove it; remove the whole thing and then the city will be in compliance with the law. If the city was interested in representing all religions and randomly listing the churches, there wouldn't be all Christian churches listed on the site. Since a directory of churches would not be allowed within the halls of Honolulu Hale, it follows that such a directory should not be included on the pages of the City's 'official' Web site."
City spokeswoman Carol Costa would not comment on the value or importance of having a religious section on the site, but said the page is a carry-over from an earlier site that was created by a company that makes pages for Mainland cities.
Costa said the city does not solicit churches to advertise on the site, which has links to 17 Christian churches.
"There's misunderstanding about the site," said Costa. "We're not deleting Jewish or Buddhist groups. The ones listed on the site are the ones who have contacted our Web master," said Costa. "This is such an itsy bitsy part of the Web site and it's there to give visitors and residents as much information as possible."
The city posts a disclaimer on the page stating: "The businesses or organizations listed on this Web site do not constitute an endorsement of that business or organization by the City and County of Honolulu nor is there any guarantee of the quality of service delivered by that business or organization."