Religion's role in fair questioned by ACLU
By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai'i wants to know the extent of the city's involvement in a family fair at 'A'ala Park today that the ACLU says is linked to an evangelical organization.
The ACLU yesterday filed a complaint in federal court, saying the city cannot be a sponsor of an event that has a religious connection.
The event's organizer, however, said that although the fair is being advertised on the Web site of the Hawai'i Christian Coalition, the event is being staged by a separate group.
"There's nothing religious about it," said Garret Hashimoto, who is head of both the Hawai'i Christian Coalition and the new group, Family Day Outreach International.
A notice on the coalition's Web site lists the city as an event sponsor. That drew an angry response from the ACLU, which last year sued the city for helping with the coalition's Family Day program.
"We have a pending suit against the city in federal court," ACLU attorney Susan Dorsey said. "They know it's illegal, so they are trying to sponsor the event with stealth."
Hashimoto said the city's only involvement with the event is allowing the use of the park. "They're not giving any help or money or manpower," he said.
The ACLU said it will seek to have its new complaint added to the pending lawsuit before U.S. District Judge Helen Gilmor and ask for an accounting of city resources offered to the family fair.
The event, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., features ethnic dancing groups and food and is expected to draw about 1,000 people from nearby neighborhoods, Hashimoto said. "It's strictly cultural, not religious," he said.
Reach Mike Leidemann at 525-5460 or firstname.lastname@example.org