April 29 started like any other day at the Hawaii state Capitol, with Senate President Colleen Hanabusa inviting a member of the clergy to recite a prayer. But as the reverend began his invocation, another voice rang out: “I object! My name is Mitch Kahle and I object to this prayer on the grounds that it is a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. I object.” The interjection was brief and the reverend never missed a beat, finishing to an exaggerated round of “amens.”
A few seconds later, Kahle, founder of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, was shoved out of the building by sheriff’s deputies, forced to the ground and arrested. The entire incident was captured on film by an associate of Kahle’s and news cameras.
Last week, District Court Judge Leslie Hayashi found Kahle not guilty of disorderly conduct. Based on the video evidence, it was an easy call: Kahle, like any citizen, has a right to speak in a public forum; he wasn’t physically aggressive and never threatened anyone.
At the same time, it’s doubtful Kahle minds the attention. He appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s FOX News show in 2003 and has fought other headline-grabbing battles, including getting the Honolulu Police Department to remove the word “God” from its oath.
Now, Kahle is filing suit, charging, among other things, assault and battery, false arrest and malicious prosecution. In a press release, Kahle’s attorneys said there should be “zero tolerance for physical violence against peaceful protest” and that “the state added insult to injury by prosecuting Mr. Kahle while taking no action against his attackers.”
BOE Could Be DOA
These days, few people truly have job security. Certainly not members of the state Board of Education (BOE), who were sworn in at a ceremony this week. The group, including Maui rep Leona Rocha-Wilson, shouldn’t get comfortable: per a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November, the BOE will be appointed by the Governor, rather than elected by voters, going forward.
The legislature still has to work out the details, and it’s possible Governor-elect Abercrombie could keep some or all of the current group intact. But the uncertainty essentially makes these members lame ducks from day one—an inauspicious beginning to Abercrombie’s much-heralded “new day.”
A New Breed of Birther
When wild conspiracy theories fail, try a blatant misreading of the Constitution. That would seem to be the motto of Charles Kerchner Jr., the latest “concerned citizen” to see his legal challenge against President Obama’s eligibility thrown out (this week, by the Supreme Court, without comment).
Unlike the “birthers” who claim Obama wasn’t actually born in the United States, Kerchner’s challenge hinges on a unique interpretation of Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, specifically the part that prohibits anyone other than a “natural born citizen” from becoming Commander in Chief. According to Kerchner, that applies not only to the candidate but to both of his or her parents—a standard that would have disqualified many Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson.
Lest you think Kerchner is entirely divorced from the the birther crowd (along with reality), he does point to “evidence” on his Web site (protectourliberty.org) that Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate may be fake. He also—after asking for money—encourages people to write letters to the editor of their “local or regional newspaper decrying the lack of coverage and the cover-up of the Obama eligibility issue.” We can hardly wait.