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.”