ACLU Files New Suit Over Use Of City's Family Day Festival To Promote Christianity
July 14, 2003
Honolulu - Representing several Honolulu residents and taxpayers, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai`i today filed suit in First Circuit Court against the City and County of Honolulu, Mayor Jeremy Harris, and City Deputy Director Malcolm Tom for using the City's Family Day Festival to promote fundamentalist Christian religious beliefs and to raise money for fundamentalist religious organizations associated with the Hawaii Christian Coalition.
The lawsuit is a follow up to the ACLU's federal case regarding exclusion of gay individuals from the related Family Day Parade which is still pending.
In the case filed today, the ACLU is representing Reverend Vaughn Beckman, Holly Huber, Rupert Teves, Juliet Begley, and Michael Golojuch, Jr.
"I am deeply concerned that the City of Honolulu and the Hawaii Christian
Coalition violated the principle of Separation of Church and State by using Family Day to promote the fundamentalist religious beliefs of one segment of our society to the exclusion of all others" said Plaintiff Reverend Vaughn Beckman who is Senior Minister at the First Christian Church, president of the Interfaith Alliance of Hawaii, and a graduate of Liberty Baptist Seminary.
According to the complaint, the City did not allow equal access to all organizations to perform at Family Day events but invited only select groups and individuals to provide entertainment. The City reserved the vast majority of the entertainment and programming opportunities at Family Day for evangelical Christian churches. No other religious viewpoints, other than that of fundamentalist Christians, were represented at Family Day.
The lawsuit further alleges that applications posted on the City website directed corporate sponsors and individuals wishing to participate in the Family Day Festival to send checks directly to a Christian Family Charities, a non-profit organization that raises money for conservative Christian religious organizations including the Hawaii Christian Coalition, Hawaii Right-to-Life, and several Christian Churches on the mainland and in Hawaii.
In addition, performances at the Keiki Stage were entirely evangelical in nature and directed at proselytizing to young impressionable children. Other performances at Songfest were entirely Christian and included 'testimonials' from 'born-again Christians' who urged others to convert to Christianity.
"The City spent tens of thousand of taxpayer dollars on the Family Day Event, which was essentially used to raise money for certain Christian organizations," said Holly Huber. "Sponsorship and application fees should have gone to the City to compensate taxpayers for this costly event, but instead they were funneled to support religious organizations. It is so upsetting that the City would misuse taxpayer money like this, especially when were are told that they have to cut important services because of budgetary constraints."
ACLU legal director Brent White said, "the City's actions here are a part of a broader policy and practice of using City events, like Sunset on the Plains, supported by taxpayer dollars, to provide certain religious groups special access to large audiences to which they can spread their message. This mixing of government with religion is forbidden by the Constitution."
The lawsuit seeks an order directing the City to account for all expenditures of City resources and time in relation to the preparation and execution of the Family Day event, and order directing Mayor Harris and Deputy Managing Director Malcolm Tom to compensate taxpayers for misuse of public funds, and an order preventing the City from similarly misusing public funds to promote religion in the future.
Select Exhibits Filed In The Anti-Gay Family Day Parade Case Illustrating City's Involvement In The Parade
ACLU Sues Over Exclusion Of Gay Groups From Parade Sponsored By City And Religious Group
The Honolulu Advertiser - City hit with another lawsuit over Family Day
Star Bulletin - City sued over Family Day event
Honolulu Weekly - City of God
PDF Copy of this Press Release
PDF Copy of this complaint
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