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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Lawmaker accused of mixing office, faith

By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

A group opposed to mingling religion with government alleged yesterday that a local lawmaker violated the Constitution and state ethics code by coordinating a religious ceremony through his state office.

Hawai'i Citizens for the Separation of State and Church complained to the state Ethics Commission that Rep. William Stonebraker, R-15th (Kalama Valley, Portlock) had improperly used public resources to invite Kaiser High School graduates to a baccalaureate service.

But Stonebraker, an assistant pastor who has organized bible study sessions with fellow lawmakers, said he did nothing wrong.

He said the celebration was traditional in his district, that constituents had asked him to help continue it, and that he had not used government letterhead or stamps to mail out invitations.

The church-state separation group complained that the invitations urged respondents to call Stonebraker's Capitol office, however, and that staff there had answered calls during business hours.

"Rep. Stonebraker's blatant disregard for the limits and responsibilities of public office is obvious," the group said.

Stonebraker said he had merely hoped to determine how many students would attend the service so that he could purchase the correct number of lei. Another person ultimately made the purchases, he said.

"In my opinion it is a minor thing," Stonebraker said of the phone calls. "They're calling their public servant. It's almost ridiculous that you can't use that phone."

Stonebraker said he understood it would be improper for him to use his office phone to invite people to his church and that he had never done so.

He said he believed the church-state separation group objected to religion in general and had mounted a vendetta against him because of his faith.