This is genuinely screwed up. Supporting separation of church and state can get you beat up in Hawaii.
When Senate President Colleen Hanabusa introduced a reverend to say the invocation, Mitch Kahle stood from his seat in the gallery of the Senate chambers and said, “I object. My name is Mitch Kahle and I object to this prayer on the grounds that it’s a violation of the first amendment of the constitution of the United States. I object.”
Kahle’s protest lasted about seven seconds. Then he stopped talking and sat down. The Senate’s Sergeant at Arms was determined to remove Kahle. When Kahle resisted he was forcefully removed and roughed up. The incident was caught by several video cameras including a camera belonging to Hawaii News Now.
Watch the video. You can hear Kahle make his brief statement, which does not disrupt the proceedings — the prayer goes on without interruption. It’s the aftermath that gets ugly when security guards and various people in suits drag him out of the room, rough him up on the ground, and strike out at the cameraman, who also ends up thrown on the ground.
It’s a distressingly violent response to a moderate and civil protest.
But there’s good news! It went to trial, and look how it ended:
District Court judge Leslie Hayashi needed less than an hour to find Kahle not guilty.
“Number one, there was no disorderly conduct. Number two, he has a first amendment right to speak in a public forum such as he did. And number three, the legislature was violating our U.S. Constitution as well as the Hawaii constitution by having these invocations,” Harrison [Kahle’s lawyer, not the judge] said.
American government should be secular. Let’s stop this game of opening government meetings with pleas to an invisible magic man in the sky.