When a Church Partners with a Public School to Raise Money for a Christian Charity, an Atheist Steps In

Over the past six years, orchestra students at Hawaii’s Moanalua High School have raised over $200,000 for charity through a holiday concert. This year, they were set to raise $30,000 to help American doctors travel to Africa so they could “help the poorest of residents — some who have never seen a doctor — with urgent medical and dental needs.”

Just two problems: They partner with a local church to hold the event and the charity is actually a Christian ministry.

I’m sure atheist Mitch Kahle (founder of the Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church) knew how unpopular it would be to fight such a worthy cause, but the Constitution is based on principle, not popular sentiment, so he did something about the situation — and the state’s government listened:

Mitch Kahle

[Kahle] wrote a letter to the Department of Education on “Freedom from Religion Foundation” stationary on December 3 demanding state officials stop the concert. He claimed the public high school was in cahoots with New Hope, one of Hawaii’s largest Christian churches.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, director of Communications for the DOE, said the decision announced Monday to cancel the Friday concert was made by the DOE after consultation with the Attorney General’s office.

“The Department applauds both the students who were hoping to provide this concert, as well as the charitable purpose behind it. However, after some consideration, the Department realized that the concert could have been better structured,” Dela Cruz said.

As you might expect, the story going through the media is all about how an evil man stopped a wonderful concert, not how a great activist took an unpopular stance and pointed out a violation of church/state separation:

Kahle doesn’t win in court so much as he gets his way by getting people in government to simply bend to his wishes through bullying and threats.

He has intimidated Senate leadership into cancelling its daily prayer during the 60-working day session.

He’s pushed the Honolulu City Council leadership into cancelling only prayer a month typically held before its monthly meeting.

He’s harassed the military until it took a cross down from its property.

And when loved ones lost their family members on Mothers’ Day, May 9, 1999, during a tragic land slide at Sacred Falls park, and they posted eight small crosses by the roadside in remembrance, Kahle insisted the state remove them from the public sidewalk.

Right… Kahle’s such a big bully that he reads parts of the Constitution to his victims. (THE MONSTER!)

New Hope church went through with a Christian concert of its own last night to raise the money. Good for them. This is what they should’ve been doing all along. There was never a good reason to use the local school’s talent to help fill their coffers and spread their faith.

Meanwhile, Kahle deserves a lot of praise for doing the right thing after no one in the church or school administration could bring themselves to say anything to stop the illegal merging of the two worlds.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • cipher

    Hemant, I’m sorry, but I don’t see that this does anyone any good.

    • Silver_fox-trot

       It does good by telling people that they shouldn’t be helping others conditionally. In most Christian charities they work by saying ‘I’ll help you a little bit, but if you leave your evil pagan religion and follow the One True Faith, then I’ll help you out lots!’

      It’s like a drug dealing giving you a free sample and then offering more at a ‘reduced price’. Or a stalker piercing the tire of his stalkee and then offering to ‘help her out’.

      It’s disgusting that these people try to hide their motivations behind a veil of charity.

      There’s a reason why I don’t give to ‘christain charities’ and this is one of them.

      If the school wants to help a charity, there are plenty of secular ones to chose from, that help because they can and want to, no strings attached, and if the church wants to send missionaries on missions that help people on the side, they can do that too, but the school has no business teaming with the church.

      If you are in doubt, replace church with mosque and tell me what you think the reaction from he people would be.

      • cipher

        If you are in doubt, replace church with mosque and tell me what you think the reaction from he people would be.

        As long as they were working together on a secular charity, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

        Moreover, the charity in question, Mercy Ships, appears to be more about medicine than about saving souls, which most of you will probably consider irrelevant, but I don’t.

        Correction: I said that badly. I meant that as long as the goal was secular, and not about “saving souls” (which would appear to be the case here), it wouldn’t bother me.

        • Question Everything

          The issue is that we have laws, and those laws and legal readings give us the separation of church and state.  It’s fine for the church to raise funds for a secular cause.  It’s fine for the school to raise funds for the same secular cause.  But when the school raised funds go to a church, that’s where the law says ‘no’.

          I work with plenty of charities, both gov’t run and church run, and my only rules when providing my time, money, or donations is that they follow the law.  If a church charity does a prayer group before, during, or after an event, well, so long as they don’t require me to join in, I’ll keep supporting them, as that’s their right.

          If a school charity funnels money to a church, though, that’s a big no-no, even if the end result is still secular.  Many churches have lawyers around, or simple legal opinions are cheap to get (as opposed to actual lawsuits).  They could set up a separate charity that the church donates to, and so does the school – that’s fine.  They could find a related charity and donate to that, and have the school do the same – that’s also fine.

          The church went ahead and did their own concert, which is perfectly fine.

          Anyway, bottom line – just because the goal is good, that doesn’t mean the means are legal.  There are plenty of ways to still achieve those good goals and work within the law.

    • rover serton

      using a public school concert as church fundraiser although with a good intent, is and should be illegal. if the children choose to precipitate that’s great. but don’t put my public schools name on it as an endorsement of their religion.

      • Will Roma

        How is this a church fundraiser and how the hell does this endorse religion. The level of ignorance some proclaiming to be free thought
        advocates is stunning.

        • Octoberfurst

          The money goes to a CHRISTIAN missionary group so along with medical care the people overseas also get a good dose of Jesus and that is not something a public school should be funding. If it were purely a secular operation that would be fine.

        • Jcuff

          Did you read the article? The fundraiser was for a Christian ministry, with the help of a local church.

        • Coyotenose

          The level of ignorance some proclaiming to be free thought advocates is stunning.

          How very and ironically true.

        • Nate Frein

          The article quite clearly showed that this is not a school fundraiser for which the church provided a venue.  This is a church donation drive for which the school provided talent.

    • Dan

       I’ve worked over seas in the PC and I have seen missionaries in action.  On more than one occasion, the “aid” was conditional on religious orientation.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        one need not travel overseas to observe that. it happens all the time right here in the USA. see also: salvation army. 

        • Blacksheep

          The Salvation Army is a Christian organization, they don’t pretend to be anything else. You don’t like the Salvation Army?

          • Adam Thorn

            I don’t, they’re homophobic even going as far as to say that non celibate gays needed to die and generally being against any LGBT equality laws. But in regards to them giving help, one of their main objectives is “the advancement of the Christian religion” so I prefer the people I give money to to help people outside of preferences without every slice of help coming with a dose of religion.

          • Stev84

            They pretend to be a charity. Most people don’t know that they’re really a church

            • Blacksheep

              They don’t pretend, but I agree that many people might not realize it. 
              The “About Us” section of their website reads:”The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.””

  • Jporgal

    Congratulations Mr. Kahle, If the church of Satan or Wicca tried to do a concert like this, all hell would break loose. It is really a shame that atheists HAVE to resort to intimidation and harassment to get our point across. If law makers would just do what they were paid to do, this type of action would not be necessary. 

    • Will Roma

      This is not against the law

      • Andrew B.

         Apparently the Attorney General of Hawai’i felt differently…

      • C Peterson

        This is not against the law

        That is not at all clear. Any sort of partnership between a church and a government institution is- at best- operating in a very gray zone. And when the government entity is a school, and children are involved, it’s hard to imagine a scenario that would stand up in court. Apparently the state agrees.

        • Will Roma

          Most atheists think that if a public institution even glances at a religious institution, then they are in breach of the First Amendment, its a shame they fail to even read what the First Amendment has to say. I would love to hear your interpretation of the matter and how this goes against the separation of church and state.

          • Andrew B.

            “Most atheists think that if a public institution even glances at a
            religious institution, then they are in breach of the First Amendment”

            And you know this how?  Divine revelation?  Did an angel tell you?  What about a burning bush?

          • C Peterson

            The wording of the First Amendment is only a small part of the constitutional issue. Of greater importance in determining legality is the large body of legal decisions that determine the interpretation of the Constitution.

            Courts have almost always held that a strict separation between government and religion must be maintained. Not only can a government entity not support or endorse religion in any way, but in most cases, even the appearance of support or endorsement is held illegal. When you have some kind of legal connection between a government entity and a religious one, there is a high burden placed on the government to justify that connection.

            It would seem that in this case, the state felt that it would be unable to provide such justification.

            This isn’t a matter of concern to atheists. It is a matter for secularists, who may themselves be either atheists or otherwise.

          • Sindigo

            And most Christians think they’re above the law.

            See, we can all make sweeping generalisations.

    • Sindigo

      “If the church of Satan…all hell would break loose”. I wish. It’s a nice image though.

  • benswing

    It would have been great if they held the concert and channeled the charity money to another cause.  

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Indeed; ideally, a group with somewhat similar goals, but a secular focus.

      Operation Smile might have been a viable alternate, but there are probably others.

  • Will Roma

    This could be easily defended in court as the simple act of working with a religious institution does not endorse the beliefs of that institution especially since it is very clear that the only thing they are endorsing is the belief that we should help provide medical help to the needy.

    Hermant, this has more to do with principle, it has to do with interpretation. The naive way that you approach the Consitution is the same way gun nuts support their ignorant extreme pro gun stances.

    And yes, the guy is an asshole, this not only hurts needy people in Africa but it is also a PR blunder, but I guess the principle of sticking it to religion is more important than the practical consequences. Shameful.

    • Nate Frein

      I’ll believe he hurt “needy people in Africa” when I see how much of that money actually helps said people in Africa.

      Religious charities have notoriously high overheads.  I’d bet dollars to pesos most of that money stays in the church.

    • Stev84

      Believe it or not, but there are people who work in Africa who don’t actually want to convert everyone there

    • Silver_fox-trot

       There’s nothing stopping either the church or the school from helping with charities, they just can’t team up together.

      And ‘Shameful’? Excuse me, but I bet you that if the Christian church was replaced by a muslim mosque or Jewish temple, ‘good christians’ would be rioting about the church/state separation, which is what this was all about. Get your facts straight.

      A *PUBLIC* school has no right to help *or* hinder a religious organization of any sort.

      • Will Roma

        Charities are non profit institutions, so through the eyes of the law, it makes no sense to say that a certain group is trying to help a Charity. Now, what many of you are claiming happens behind close doors is another thing all together, the legal statutes of a charity prevents it from being helped by anyone. Onc again, this in no way violates the separation of Church and State.

        And yes, it would also be shameful if the Christian group cried foul toward a non-christian charity in the same situation. I dont know how that example proves your point in any way.

        • MonyNH

          Churches are also non-profit institutions…and public schools can’t (or shouldn’t) be raising money for them, either. It’s sad that these aid organizations limit themselves by offering aid with a side order of evangelism (“relationship evangelism” as they say on their website), but they do–and a public institution assisting in fund-raising efforts for such an organization is an endorsement of that evangelism, whether the school intends it to be or not. There are no shortage of non-religiously affiliated charities, both local and beyond, that the school could have partnered with.

    • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

      “The naive way that you approach the Consitution is the same way gun nuts support their ignorant extreme pro gun stances.”

      And just how DO gun nuts support their ignorant extreme pro gun stances?

      • C Peterson

        Exactly the same way that extreme religious nuts support their views: by narrowly interpreting a strict reading of the Second Amendment (First Amendment for the religious nuts) and totally ignoring the body of legal decisions that provide for the interpretation of the Constitution.

        There is some justification in the comment with respect to certain gun rights activists. He’s completely off the mark with respect to secularists, however. It is the religionists who misuse the Constitution.

        • The Godless Monster

          My question was directed to Will Roma, but since you insist on answering for him…

          “…totally ignoring the body of legal decisions that provide for the interpretation of the Constitution.

          You mean, ignoring landmark decisions like McDonald v. Chicago and District of Columbia v. Heller?

          • C Peterson

            I mean what I said: citing the Constitution without recognizing the large body of case law that provides the necessary context.

            • The Godless Monster

               Okay, I read your comment again…after getting more than 3 hours of sleep. Excuse the idiocy. True, citing the Constitution without judicial context is a favorite tactic of the dentally and mentally challenged.

        • The Godless Monster

           Perhaps I should have simply asked for a definition of “gun nut”.

          • C Peterson

            I’m sure that everybody who uses the term has their own idea of what it means.

            For me, it applies to people who think that the Constitution grants them the nearly unfettered right to possess any sort of weapon, in any quantity, without any requirement for demonstrating that they are qualified to do so safely.

            Also for me, it applies to most people who feel they need to have guns for protection- especially for those who feel they need guns for protection from their own government.

            You asked, and I answered. That’s all I intend to say; this isn’t a forum for debating the Second Amendment, but the First. The point of my comment is that I look very skeptically on the arguments of anybody who simply quotes the Constitution and feels that they have made their point.

            • The Godless Monster

              Good enough. We’re on the same page.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brandie.winchester Brandie Lynn Winchester

    I have also been in a similar situation. I have for a long time been against missionaries. (and many people do not understand why) Helping people is a wonderful notion, but I find it quite appalling to offer help to someone with the anterior motive of converting them to your religion, offering help should not be at the expense of destroying that people’s culture. As a preschool teacher we have a phrase we call “egocentric empathy”, the term basically means helping someone for your own benefit, many preschoolers will offer help to others with the hope that an adult will notice this empathy and praise them. Apparently Christians are adult preschoolers.

    • A_waiting100

      In the case it would be ethnocentric empathy

    • TnkAgn

      Sam Clemens once referred to missionarying as “That least excusable of all human trades.”  Ahead of his time, again.

    • Vineyard Worker

      So if missionaries go out to spread the Word of God to those that have never heard God’s Word, they should withhold any other help/assistance? Are you really trying to convey that we should go help others, just dont’t spread the Word of God while doing so?

      • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

        That would be the human and honest thing to do, yes.

      • Mr. LemurBoy

        No, if missionaries go out to spread the Word of God, any help rendered should be freely given, not a condition of anything. The first goal should be to help people. Be an example. If those people then want to know why you are doing this for them, feel free to espouse your views, and tell them why you think God is worth following. But requiring they go to a church service or join a religion before rendering aid, or ending the aid because they refuse to convert, is unfair. That is tantamount to bribery and extortion. We’re better than that.

        • Vineyard Worker

          Missionaries are Evangelists. Spreading the Word of God is the main goal. You are saying there should be no such thing as missionaries/Evangelists with the primary goal of Spreading Gods Word? Says you. If someone makes it their life’s mission to bring the Word of God to others and in doing so helps rebuild the area during down time from preaching, this is bribery and extortion? “Requiring they go to church service or join a religion before rendering aid” You made that up so your point is more convincing. No one is forced to do anything. Free Will. Evangelists come to areas to preach the Word of God and save souls. Those that do not believe, are free to come to a meeting or not. The work that is done in the area throughout a week or two week period occurs no matter who does or does not attend a meeting. You made up the conditional help scenario and lost credibility.

          • WhiteBirch

            You know that people can be coerced without having guns literally to their heads once? 

            You can’t MAKE people do anything, short of brute force. But you can make them feel guilty and obligated, and that limits their free will in a real way. People who accept help from someone else often feel obligated to hear out their views, whether that’s an evangelist or a door-to-door salesman. 

            • Vineyard Worker

              I like that we can discuss without anger, so that is a plus for both of us! In a time of crisis, many people would choose to have an Evangelists help. You look at the work of Evangelists as negative…. using words like coercion, obligated, guilty, brute force, MAKE people. There are plenty of people that would be comforted by the works of Evangelists especially in a time of crisis. If I were in a hospital suffering, give me an Evangelist to recite the scriptures. Instant comfort. Why deny that opportunity to others? People are not FORCED, or subliminally coerced. Do you want Evangelists, those that know the scriptures, to sit at home and not deliver their comfort to those that would desire such benefit? It is not a matter of helpless people being unable to deflect coercion. So I feel one way and you provided your viewpoints, are you saying stop bringing the Word of God to those that would want to hear?

              • Trickster Goddess

                If I were in a hospital suffering, give me an Evangelist to recite the scriptures.

                See, that is the thing here. You and those that would be comforted by and desire someone reciting scripture to them in a time of crisis already know and accept the “Word of God”. You don’t need a Evangelist, you just need your minister or a friend to do that for you.

                If approach a stranger in crisis who is not already a Christian or, even more so, someone who has already considered and rejected your theology, you are going to come across as an exploitative asshole and are going to cause them more distress and and discomfort when they least need it.

                It is not a matter of helpless people being unable to deflect coercion.

                Yes it is. People in the hospital or in crisis are in a very vulnerable position. And they shouldn’t have to deflect your coercion even if they are not helpless.

                The caring thing, dare I say, the Christian thing (at least according to the flavour of Christianity I was raised with) to do is to simply provide comfort to those in distress and just keep your mouth shut about religion unless they bring it up first.

                Only a sociopath who has no empathy for their situation would choose that moment to try to sell them something they weren’t asking to buy.

              • Cecelia Baines

                You are just gurgling out the same tired “We are trying to save the ______’s (fill in the blank with whatever….New Guineans, Mongolians, Eskimos etc) from themselves bullshit.

                I have witnessed first hand your destructive forces and results of cultural genocide and frankly, missionaries who preach and try to covert are guilty of full-blown evil. I have chased the likes of you out of villages and towns, and even refused to allow your types on my airplane to fly in and out of remote regions.

                There is NO valid argument for your side of the fence. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Goose Eggs. Nyet. Non. Zippo. 

                You are parasites.

              • WhiteBirch

                The power of reciprocity is a powerful motivator. When someone does something nice for you, even something as small as waving at a stranger passing by, people are motivated to respond in kind (by waving back). When someone provides material help (such as many missionaries do) the people who receive it are motivated to do something in return, and what the missionary wants is for the person to convert. That dynamic puts pressure on the recipient to convert. It makes it a decision that’s motivated from something other than genuine belief or rational decision. Do you really want people converting for that reason? Really? Don’t you see anything disingenuous about offering people things they desperately need, and then when they want to reciprocate saying “Why yes there is something you can do for me! You can listen to my testimony!” It’s deliberately putting someone in your debt and only then putting the message out, when they’re at a disadvantage. It’s unethical. 

                And as for being in the hospital, most people who would appreciate the words of an evangelist are people who already assent to their message, or people who are predisposed to it already. People who aren’t interested in Christianity or who have already left Christianity are not comforted by it! (Trust me, I am one of them, I do not find it comforting!)

                • WhiteBirch

                  PS – here’s a link that describes the kind of reciprocity I’m talking about. NPR, so not scholarly, but still interesting. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/11/26/165570502/give-and-take-how-the-rule-of-reciprocation-binds-us

      • Ummm

        Yes, help others without spreading the word of god

      • E.

        “Are you really trying to convey that we should go help others, just dont’t spread the Word of God while doing so?” Is there a problem with this? You’re still helping others. This is what you should be doing.

        • Vineyard Worker

          Missionaries/Evangelists go out to spread the Word of God and save souls. What are you talking about? Why would an evangelist help others but keep quiet about the Word of God? If a surgeon chooses to go to a location to perform surgery, should he or she not perform surgery, but rather provide all aid except surgery? Sorry, you make no sense.

          • http://www.facebook.com/brandie.winchester Brandie Lynn Winchester

            No sir you are the one who makes no sense, Helping
            others is suppose to be about the people who are in need not the benefactor and
            their beliefs. When missionaries go to poverty stricken areas and preach to
            those who are in need of help they are obligating those people to feel like
            they must convert in order to be helped. If I was starving and you offered me
            bread and medicine and then spoke of your gods wouldn’t I be compelled to agree
            with you out of fear that disagreement might offend the person who is helping
            me, you don’t have to be a dog to know not to bite the finger of those who feed
            you. This very old practice is why many cultures are now dead. In the new world
            encyclopedia the term Ethnocentrism
            is a great way to defend the dislike of missionaries (Ethnocentrism often
            entails the belief that one’s own race or ethnic group is the most
            important and/or that some or all aspects of its culture
            are superior to those of other groups. Within this ideology, individuals judge
            other groups in relation to their own particular ethnic group or culture,
            especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion.)
            What gives anyone the right to judge others for their beliefs, if religious
            people could just accept that not everyone on this earth believes the same
            thing they do and learn to allow others to have their own thoughts about life
            and afterlife then we would have less wars, richer cultures, and oddly the
            peace of earth all those religious people seem to say they want.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=305838 Jon Kussmaul

              What you’re bumping up against here is the tragedy of religion co-opting and perverting the deep goodness of people.

              Imagine the sort of person who really wants to help her fellow humans – who is willing to go to great lengths and even make sacrifices in order to make others’ lives better.  Now imagine that this person believes, deep down to their core, that it really matters, for ALL ETERNITY, whether or not you believe the right thing.  If you don’t have the right beliefs, the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, will happen to you.

              Combine those two things in the same person, and you get a missionary – someone who honestly believes that the best thing they can possibly do for people is help them to believe the right thing.

              It’s ridiculous, of course, almost to the point of being hilarious.  But to me, it’s also deeply sad.  The kind of person who would be a missionary, could be doing so much more good in the world, if only they could see the light, and start to live in the reality-based community.

            • Vineyard Worker

              Couldn’t there be people in a time of crisis that would want to speak to an Evangelist? How would an Evangelist find them?

              • Trickster Goddess

                They’ll call you. You don’t need to be cold calling everyone else.

                (Damn, I hate that the ‘Like’ button is so close to the ‘Reply’ button.)

              • Meetatheism

                 Very sad that you think that the only way to help someone in a time of crisis is to convince them to appeal to your particular imaginary deity. Maybe if you find someone in a time of crisis you could offer an ear to listen and some sympathy, maybe a hug…not your religion.

      • Trickster Goddess

         

        we should go help others, just dont’t spread the Word of God while doing so?

        Exactly. Even some Christian charities are able to do this. One example I know of is Mennonite Disaster Service, which some of my family members have worked with in the past. They send volunteers to help clean up efforts after natural disasters. Their hard and fast rule is: No proselytizing! Their mission is to help people rebuild their communities, and they know that preaching at people during a time of crisis is uncool and can be felt as coercive.

        • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

          It would be nice if more groups were like that! What really irks me is that Christians often accuse atheists of trying to eradicate faith, yet we’re not the ones going into impoverished areas to try to wipe out native religions by manipulating the uneducated populace. That’s pretty low, especially since illiterate villagers have no way of fact-checking what the missionaries are telling them.

      • Cecelia Baines

        Hey dillhole, I lived in a Y’upiq Eskimo village for 2 years. I witnessed first hand the aftermath of “Word of God” missionaries; what they essentially did to the Y’upiq was commit cultural genocide.

        Do not ever try this “why shouldn’t they spread the word of god” bullshit with me or anyone else. Facts are you destroy cultures and spread hatred and bullshit.

        You should be ashamed of yourself.

        • Cecelia Baines

          ^^^^^^ Ahhh crap ^^^^^ this got misplaced! It was supposed to follow-up with “E.”‘s post down a couple……damn it….too much Scotch…..

      • Russian Alex

        So, you are saying that helping people in need is not the primary goal of a missionary work, but rather spreading their favorite flavor of religion. That’s nice to know, but in that case, stop pretending that they do any sort of “good” other than as a by-product of proselytizing. Your statement only strengthens Kahle’s position: a publicly-funded school has no business providing assistance with publicly-funded time and money to an organization whose primary purpose is advancement of religion.

      • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

        If you’re helping others in any material way, you will hopefully spread your religion/philosophy/ethical outlook by example.

  • Stev84

    Just donate the money to something like Doctors Without Borders who do charity without religious woo

    • Trickster Goddess

      Why not donate the money to their own school for things like musical instruments and other special programs for the students?

  • Cecelia Baines

    Great work, and I may add this man is incredibly brave! He is on Hawaii and is a H’aole….he may have been born and raised there, or he may have come from the mainland, but a H’aole doing something like this on Hawaii is going to result in threats, possible violence to the man and some very very BAD situations for him. And since he is on an island, there is no where for him to go.

    Mega props to him, but dude, you’ve opened up a can of worms.

    Stay healthy and safe brother.

    • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

      Mitch is very brave and one of the most effective fighters for the First Amendment we have over here. The chance of possible violence, sadly, has already passed: while protesting opening prayers at the State Capitol, he got rousted by State-funded security thugs. He did sue, and won some manner of settlement against them.

  • Octoberfurst

      I greatly admire Mr Kahle. He took a brave, but unpopular, stance. Christians can be rather devious when it comes to violating church/State seperation. This particular church worked with a public school to raise money for doctors to go overseas and help some people in a 3rd world country. Great! But the doctors are part of a Christian ministry which means they will also preach about Jesus. Not so great.  So it is a sly way of getting help from a public school to fund missionary work.  And when someone objects then the church just whines that the mean old atheists are trying to prevent sick kids from getting help. It’s sort of a win-win for the church.

  • C Peterson

    Good for Kahle. Social change starts because people are willing to stick up for their principles, even when they might be unpopular with some people. Even when those principles place them in conflict with others in their communities.

    I find it very disturbing to see people who successfully modify public policy by insisting that the law be enforced being labeled as “bullies”. Not only is it unfair and inaccurate, but it devalues the very concept of bullying, and makes goals to minimize or eliminate genuine bullying more difficult to achieve.

  • Anne Orsi

    Mitch Kahle is enduring an unimaginable amount of hostility to protect the constitution.

    Mitch, if you read this, know that there’s a woman in Little Rock Arkansas who, like you, knows that pubic schools and religious institutions should never mix, no matter how “noble”  the reason. Know also that there are others of us, just like you, who are willing to brave the wrath of the vocal majority to say so publicly.

    If we ever meet, I’ll buy you a beer and we can share war stories.

  • The Dread Pirate Rogers

    I’d say that if the senate only meets for 60 days they don’t have time to waste praying.

  • Alajackd

    Wow, that is one fat, stuttering clusterf*** of a bigot. Why the bigotry towards Christians? You all DO realize our founding fathers held church services in government buildings, don’t you? Yes, the same ones who wrote the first amendment. Tell me, were they ignoring their own rules, or did bigots like Hugo Black, the KKK democrat who first called for bigotry towards Christians twist the meaning?

    • Coyotenose

       Man, what a sorry, stupid, jagoff who doesn’t know what the word “bigot” means*. You do realize that the American Founders weren’t perfect, don’t you? No? You’re wrapped up in in dimwitted myths about them? You don’t grasp that YOU JUST ARGUED slavery is okay?

      The legal interpretation of the First Amendment has been settled for quite some time, and you are insanely ignorant of it and too egotistical to read up or ask. Dunning and Kruger called; they want their effect back.

      By the way, good job of expressing that alleged Christian love and humility.

      *Seriously, read a book. You’re embarrassing yourself.

      • Alajackd

        Wouldn’t you think if the writers of the First Amendment meant to prohibit prayer, religious events, and even church services they’d have, ohhhh… I DON’T KNOW…. NOT held religious events, services and prayer in gov’t buildings, by gov’t officials? The fact is the First Amendment says nothing about your nonsense. This is why we know you are in fact waging a war on Christianity, because you’re making shit up as you go. It wasn’t until the racist, bigoted democratic justice Hugo Black – infamous KKK leader, ruled against religious separation… because well, he was a racist bigot, just like you.

        • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

          1) That’s just guilt by association. Either Black was right or he was wrong, and that has to be judged on the merits of his legal reasoning.
          2) Black joined the KKK because of his anti-Catholic prejudices, not any racist sentiment (AFAICT). He later regretted having joined the group, but he said he did it to help advance his political career. That doesn’t excuse the association or his anti-Catholic bigotry, but you’re asserting something that’s not actually true.
          3) How is not establishment of religion to have government officials involved in religious activities as agents of the state? We’re not talking about being religious in one’s private life; we’re talking about religious expression in one’s job.

          • Alajackd

            Have you even ever read the 1st Amendment? I’m guessing not, as you’re ignorantly asking me a question (3). Nowhere in the First Amendment does it prohibit religious expression from gov’t officials, and ESPECIALLY not of Students. In order to establish a religion, the governing body would have to make it a LAW, which the 1st Amendment does expressly prohibit. Praying in government buildings, holding religious charities in gov’t buildings DO NOT establish law. Jesus how hard is this stuff to you retards?

            • LifeinTraffic

              “Retards?” Nice. Your warm Xtian humility and compassion just shines through as you use the word “retard” as a pejorative. 

              Of course, the rest of your argument is complete bunk that shows a complete lack of basic understanding about the Constitution, or the entire accompanying body of legal cases that make up the basis for interpretation of it; but, hey, at least you can insult a whole group of people who good, God-fearing Christians like you are supposed to show mercy and help. Way to go! /S

            • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

              Nowhere in the First Amendment does it prohibit religious expression from gov’t officials

              False. Prohibiting religious expression from government officials when acting as an agent of the state is a necessary corollary to “no establishment of religion.” Also, all of the jurisprudence on freedom of religion in the 20th century would disagree with you that it has to be a law, as would Jefferson, who provided much of the underpinnings for our religious freedom law.

    • Blacksheep

      Look at the name of the organization on whose stationary Kahle wrote his letter: The FFRF. That stands for Freedom FROM Religion, as opposed to what our constitution promises, which is freedom OF religion. 

      • Quintin van Zuijlen

        Must it really be asked of you how freedom of religion can be preserved meaningfully without freedom from religion?

        • Blacksheep

          We are guaranteed freedom of religion. Freedom “from” something generally implies that the something in question is negative. (people don’t say “Freedom from happiness” for example.)

          • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

            You didn’t answer the question. How is free exercise really protected if you aren’t also free not to be religious? FFRF doesn’t advocate for freedom of religion to be eliminated as a constitutional right; they simply want First Amendment rights for secular Americans to be upheld and for religious privilege to be eliminated (among other goals, I’m sure).

          • Sharon Hypatiia

             Uh, they don’t say “Freedom of happiness” either.

            How can a Jew, Muslim, atheist or Buddhist (for example) have “Freedom of religion” if they or their children are forced to sit and listen to government agencies recite xtian prayers or dish out Jesus talk while they are receiving services from that agency? Why should anyone have to listen to someone else preach beliefs that they consider heresies?
            You have tax exempt churches to follow your own conscious in – stop expecting the government to do your job for you.

          • Quintin van Zuijlen

            I interpret “freedom from religion” as the freedom from being forced in any way to participate in any religion against my will. Freedom from religion is, in that sense, integral to freedom of religion. If I can’t be free from any particular religion, I can’t be free to have my own.

            It seems you don’t understand the very concept of freedom. People have a right to be free from whatever religion they wish, but they might choose not to. It’s not an obligation. You’re also not obligated to choose a religion. You can let someone else do that for you. In fact, most people seem to do so.

      • Ibis3

         How can one have freedom of religion if the state and its instruments are in the business of imposing and favouring a religion? For example, what if I’m a student at that school, a member of the choir, and my religion says “worship no other gods but Isis,” which my priestess interprets to mean “no time or money that you spend should promote or support patriarchal, misogynist religions like Christianity.” I can’t in good conscience take part in a concert that’s raising money for a Christian mission. So here I am, at a publicly funded public school that’s supposed to be secular, but I’m not permitted to sing with my friends in the “secular” choir without violating my religious beliefs.

        In order to have true freedom of religion, the government must not play favourites–that means secularism or  a fair, thorough multiculturalism. The latter is a lot more difficult to achieve, especially on a limited budget. In this case, instead of having one concert to benefit a secular charity (e.g. MSF), you would require the choir to put on, say, six concerts–one for the Christian Protestant mission, one to support the Catholic Church, another for a Jewish charity, another for an Islamic mission, one for the Sikhs, and another for the Wiccans. And for each of those concerts, you’d probably have kids having to withdraw on religious grounds.

        • Blacksheep

          I appreciate that. I understand and support the idea of the government not favoring one religion over another. I’m being pedantic about the term “Freedom from religion” because the statement itself puts a negative spin on religion. If I were to celebrate “Freedom from Ibis3″ it would be insulting to you. (I think).

          • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

            No, it doesn’t. It’s the flip side of freedom of religion – one is free to practice their own religion or to practice no religion at all.

      • C Peterson

        The meaning of the First Amendment is determined by a very large body of legal decisions stretching back 200 years. And under that law, we are guaranteed freedom both of and from religion. And it makes sense, given that the neither can exist without the other.

      • TheBlackCat

         “as opposed to what our constitution promises, which is freedom OF religion.”

        No, the constitution says nothing of the sort it says, and I quote,

        1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,

        2. or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

        You can’t satisfy 1 without granting freedom from religion, otherwise you would, by definition, be establishing religion (note that is says “establishment of religion”, not “establishment of A religion”)

        This whole freedom of vs. freedom from debate is completely pointless because it ignores what the constitution actually says.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Actually, in some of his private letters the so-called “Godfather of the Constitution” and “Godfather of the Bill of Rights” James Madison pretty much said yes, he had ignored his own principle in several instances, but hoped that it would be possible in the future for it to be kept more strictly.

      • Alajackd

         Oh really??? Prove it.. Show me proof that James Madison said he wished he’d not allowed church services and prayer in government buildings.. .3, 2, 1, go…

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          Specifically church services and prayer in public buildings? No — but my claim was not so exactingly specific.  You might look at Detached
          Memoranda
          , for starters, as to how he thought he had failed (particularly in the matter of Congressional and military chaplains); and the July 10, 1822 letter to Edward Livingston, regarding his aspirations for some improvement.

  • Carol Anderson

    Good job, Kahle.

  • Blacksheep

    When I read the headline, I really thought this story was going to be about an atheist “stepping in” to help out with the fundraiser. Now I see it was to shut it down.

    Is this part true?:

    “And when loved ones lost their family members on Mothers’ Day, May 9, 1999, during a tragic land slide at Sacred Falls park, and they posted eight small crosses by the roadside in remembrance, Kahle insisted the state remove them from the public sidewalk.”

    If so, it speaks volumes about him.

    • C Peterson

      Yes, it reveals him to be a person of principle, who holds true to his secularist values.

      FWIW, the crosses were not temporary memorials, but permanently installed and maintained on public property, and in two cases, violated the explicit wishes of two of the victims, who were atheists and stated in their wills that they wished no memorials.

      • Blacksheep

        I admire people who hold true to their values, provided they respect the values of others. 

        In that case I would have asked for two crosses to be removed – nobody should have religion forced upon them.

        • C Peterson

          That still leaves six religious symbols, sanctioned by the state, maintained on state property. That is not appropriate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

    There are some details missing from the (free) Hawaii Reporter that are included in the Star Advertiser (which is behind a paywall).  Someone posted part of it on this forum:
    http://www.forumshawaii.com/community/threads/bah-humbug-post-here-if-you-dislike-xmas.60285/page-3 For several years the “Gift of Hope Charity Concert” has been a collaboration between the school and New Hope Oahu, with proceeds directed to Mercy Ships, a charity that provides medical care to the world’s poor. It usually sells out with about 1,200 tickets. They were priced at $10 and $15 this year.“What was different this year was there was no charity listed,” said Kahle, who decided to follow up to see whether it was a fundraiser for the church itself. He contacted the school to buy tickets and was referred to Chad Brownstein, a Moanalua alumnus who volunteers as coordinator of the concert and also works at New Hope Oahu. Kahle said Brownstein advised him to attend a weekend church service to get tickets.
    “We had to go inside the church service in order to buy the tickets,” said Kahle, whose associate bought three tickets Sunday. “We were told to write out our check to New Hope.”
    Brownstein stressed to the Star-Advertiser that the event was a school concert, not a church function, and that funds would go to charity.
    “The plan was to give 100 percent of ticket sales and donations received to Mercy Ships,” Brownstein said. “Our goal was to raise $30,000, which in West Africa can go a really long way.”“I volunteer, the singers volunteer their time and there are also some volunteers that help with sound and lighting and set-up,” he said. “It’s not a New Hope event. It’s a Moanalua event. We volunteer for it, and we happen to be part of the church. It’s not like it’s a church event.”
    In previous years, publicity for the event on the church website said all proceeds would go to Mercy Ships. This year it did not specify a charity, and simply advised people to “Pick up your tickets at our Farrington Campus or by calling Chad.” New Hope Oahu holds services at Farrington High School, and the concert has been held there in the past.
    Brownstein told the Star-Advertiser that tickets could be bought through the school music department or the church or at the door. He said about 600 tickets had been sold so far, including 200 that were sold at a school concert on Saturday, and that refunds would be issued.

    (more at the forum link)

  • Wildbill040

    Good work!

  • Clarissa

    As a musician first and an atheist second, I’m BEYOND annoyed with his insistence on stopping the concert. Those kids worked hard and deserve to have played, and I’m glad they got the opportunity to do so at the church; couldn’t he have thought of a better way to disentangle church and state? Like insisting the money went to Doctors without Borders instead? The world needs more music just as it needs more tolerance. 

    • Nate Frein

      Oh get over yourself.  Honestly.

      Nothing is stopping the kids from putting on their own concerts at their school or choosing to do so for charitable reasons.  But the school has NO BUSINESS providing free talent (plus the use of school owned instruments) to a church to provide money for that church’s missionary program.
      This is NOT the church deciding to help out the school in any way.  This  is ENTIRELY the school providing material aid to the church.

  • Robert

    I totally agree with this man’s values, but I’d say he goes a bit far in getting roadside crosses removed. Let it be out of respect. It’s not really harming anybody is it?

  • S. Taylor

    It is baffling to me how Christians don’t understand how this sort of thing would make non-Christians cringe.  If some sort of Church Of Satan Charity joined together with the local school in order to raise money for a good cause, then the Christians would all be in a damn uproar.  Even if the event was to give money to a good cause, the Christians would find the sponser of the event to be unacceptable.  They would just not believe that the organizers of the event wouldn’t have any sort of influence on things.  But, when non-Christians complain for the same reasons, they can’t understand why it is a problem for others.

  • shawn von-lazarus

    government has no right to fund the morality of groups charities.. –

    fact is the tax write off is not constitutional…

    the biggest welfare bums.. bennies… go to religious institutions…

    the churchs get 40 k per homeless individual in grants.. government could buy housing cheaper then. giving grants to religious orgs….for the homelessness its the second-biggest scam in the history of america… after wallstreet ponzi-scheme “constant growth” ponzi scheme!

    i am a christian and i say take the tax write off status.. let people donate out of their hearts- and not get a tax write off

    We must end the Government Grants to religious orgs.

    its far cheaper to directly for the government to give to the homeless then have religous orgs-do it

    social-change is understanding conservative capitalism is not always the cheapest method of allocation of the public resources -its twice as expensive with the worst outcomes

    • Sharon Hypatiia

       If you are a xtian who supports ending the Faith Based Initiatives Programs, I salute you!
      Religious charity once meant people making a sacrifice out of their own pockets to follow Jesus’ dictum to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked……”. It was not just to help the have-nots but to teach the haves to share their “wealth” and not over value worldly possessions.
      The FBIP has the taxpayers funding the “charities”, the churches making money running the programs, the church members getting off financial obligations  and the recipients sometimes having to answer to standards set by the church. Some churches try to be genuinely secular and impartial and some don’t.  (See above about how some xtians just don’t get that charity should be unhooked from proselytizing!)
      FBIP also drives out secular charities and programs, leaving the recipients no options but to deal with religious institutions.
      In 2009, $2.2 billion of federal grants went to faith-based nonprofits, for a total of $10.6 billion since the initiative got underway in
      2002.

  • Rwlawoffice

    This concert regardless of the charity that receives the funds is not unconstitutional. A school property can be used by religious organizations. This was recently determined by the courts in New York when the school district tried to prohibit churches from using school grounds for their worship services. More direct to this case, this wasa concert put on by the students not the school. As students they have the right to do this, even if it is on school property. They also have the right to select the charity.

    Not only was this guy wrong on the law, he comes off as a jerk in the process.

    As for those who comment and ask Christianswho do work for the poor and sick around the globe also share the Gospel message with them,we do it because we believe both are valuable and helpful. Plus of course, it is our right to do so. If you don’t want to support those missions, than don’t. That is your right. For example, live the work that Doctots WithoutBorders does, but given the choice, I will send my dollars to a medical mission that also spreads the Gospel.

    • allein

      From the first linked article: “But the concert is run by school staff and features its students, and tickets are sold both on campus and by phone.”

      They are raising money for a religious charity (they even have a whole page on their website asking for prayer). This isn’t individual students doing this on their own, they are doing it as part of the school orchestra, run by school staff, and raising money for a religious organization. That organization may be doing great work at the end of the day, but a public school should not be doing their fundraising.


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