Religious Student Code At Mckinley High School A Relic Of The Past Under Court Settlement
January 28, 2003
Honolulu - Parties announced a settlement in Federal District Court today of a lawsuit over McKinley High School's code of honor which required "love for God." The lawsuit was filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai'i (ACLU) on behalf of public school student James Ornellas challenging the constitutionality of McKinley High School's code of honor
The code at issue read in part: "As a student of McKinley, I stand For Love of God and all Mankind." At the time of filing the lawsuit, Mr. Ornellas explained, "I am not sure if God exist or not, but I don't think it is right for the school to tell me, or any other student, that I should love God. To me it is the same as the school telling me to love Buddha or Allah. I think the honor code violates student's freedom to form their own religious beliefs without being told by the school what they should believe."
While a student originally composed the Code of Honor in 1927, it was, until the 1990's, not displayed prominently at McKinley High School. However, several years ago, the 1927 Code of Honor was printed on large yellow posters, placed in the school handbook, put to music, prominently displayed in classrooms, and actively promoted by school officials as the school's official code of honor. In addition, the 1927 Code of Honor began to be recited aloud at graduation ceremonies and student assemblies.
Under the terms of today's settlement:
1. A plaque made in 1927 and which contains the Code of Honor may remain in the Hall of Honor along with other school artifacts, as long as it is not distinguished through lighting, placement, or other means.
2. Other than the plaque, all posters, flyers, and other items containing the 1927 Code of Honor will be immediately and permanently removed from school premises.
3. The 1927 Code of Honor will be immediately and permanently removed from the school website.
4. Commencing in school year 2003-2004, the 1927 Code of Honor will not be printed in the McKinley school planner, handbook, or other materials.
5. School officials will not support, endorse, or encourage the recitation or singing of the 1927 Code of Honor at official school functions, including graduation ceremonies.
6. The right of students to recite the 1927 Code of Honor on their own shall not be restricted.
7. The 1927 Code of Honor will not be endorsed or promoted by school officials as the official or unofficial school code of honor or be promoted or reproduced in official school publications, except in reports that make historical reference to the 1927 code.
"This settlement reaffirms that a public school has no business telling students what they should or should not believe in relation to God," said Brent White, ACLU Legal Director and attorney for Mr. Ornellas. "The student who wrote this code in 1927 was certainly entitled to believe that students should love God. The problem arose when the school dug up this code in the 1990s and decided to promote it as the official school code of honor. The code is simply not appropriate as an official school code in today's multi-religious, multi-cultural society."
The Honolulu Advertiser - McKinley drops 'love for God'
Honolulu Star-Bulletin - McKinley will erase ‘God’ pledge
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