Let’s all stand, sing, and pray to Our Lord Jesus Christ — in the Legislature?

courtesy www.htchurch.com
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courtesy www.htchurch.com

BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN, PH.D. — According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser of January 12, 2011, the Hawaii state Senate leadership will be recommending a new rule to stop the tradition of having a prayer at the opening of each day’s session.


“The Senate formed a three-member committee last year to look into the invocation practice after the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii wrote to both the Senate and state House in August with complaints about ‘decidedly Christian prayers — with reference to Jesus Christ.'”

As we all know, prayers are often given at public events in Hawaii, including official government hearings. Many times the person giving the prayer follows a custom of making the prayer non-sectarian and also neutral on current political issues. But then there are times when prayer is blatantly sectarian and blatantly political.

How about opening an official hearing in the Legislature with a hymn used in every Christian church service, followed by a prayer asking God to reach into people’s hearts to support the Akaka bill? Yes, that actually happened.

On March 31, 2005 two committees of the Legislature of the State of Hawai’i held a joint meeting to receive information about the Akaka bill from Hawai’i’s two U.S. Senators and Hawai’i’s two U.S. Representatives. The event was broadcast live on ‘Olelo TV, allowing me to tape it and later create a transcript by repeated playback and careful checks for accuracy.

Here’s a transcript from the beginning of the event [with my own comments and translations in square brackets]. The two House committee chairs in the transcript were Ezra Kanoho and Scott Saiki.

Kanoho: Thank you very much Chair Saiki for asking that a pule [prayer] be rendered. I’d like to ask all of you to first join in, in the singing of the Doxology in Hawaiian. And we all sing much better when we are standing, so mai [come; join]

[The Doxology is sung in Hawaiian by everyone in the room who knew it, which is most everyone in the audience except Inouye, Abercrombie, Case, and some state Legislators. Sounded like church, but actually was in a room in the state Legislature where committee hearings are held.]

Ho’onani i ka Makua Mau
Ke Keiki me ka ‘Uhane no
Ke Akua Mau ho’omaika’i pu
Ko keia ao, ko kela ao

[“Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise him all creatures here below.
Praise him above ye heavenly host.
Praise father son and holy ghost.

[When sung in English, the music is the same. The words have similar conceptual meanings when taken as a whole, but different literal meanings from the Hawaiian version; because Rev. Hiram Bingham wrote the Hawaiian version, around 1820, in such a way to make the music stay the same and therefore the number of syllables per line had to remain approximately the same. See below for 3 videos featuring the Doxology being sung in Hawaiian and English]

Kanoho: E pule kakou [Let’s all pray] {Everyone remained standing. Is there anyone alive who would have refused to stand for either the Doxology or Rep. Kanoho’s prayer? Talk about intimidation! Political correctness, Hawaiian language, crowd pressure, and God Almighty demand that you stand for this church service.}

Kanoho: Eternal God and most gracious and loving Heavenly Father, we bow in reverence and in thanksgiving for thy most precious gift to us of life, health, strength and talent, for positions of responsibility in government in our communities and homes, and for joining us here with members of our Congressional delegation to whom we express our most grateful appreciation for their good works in the U.S. Congress, and for taking the time and effort to discuss with us the status of the Akaka bill, so critically important not only for Hawaiians in terms of self-determination and protection of entitlements, but to all the people of this land in providing justice and in righting the wrongs of more than 100 years ago. We ask Dear God as Hawaiians and Hawaiians at heart, the many who have come this morning, that we may be united in this effort, but to respect differences which may continue to exist. Grant us thy knowledge and wisdom and the courage to act in this and all issues before us, that we may fulfill the responsibilities and trust that thou and the people of this land have placed in each of us. We pray not as our will, but as thy will be done; in the name of the Father, the Son Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour, and thy Holy Spirit. Maka’i no ka Makua, a o Ke Keiki, a me ka ‘Uhane hemolele. [The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit truly watch over us.] Amene. [Amen.]

Audience in unison: Amene. [Amen.]
[Everyone sits down.]


For all the gory details and further analysis about this hearing at the Legislature, see

Here’s the Doxology sung by a chorus in the background while inspirational pictures are shown

Here’s the Doxology sung reverently by a small group, first in Hawaiian, then in English, then again in Hawaiian.

Here’s the Doxology being sung as part of a Hawaiian sovereignty protest





  1. Do you meant to say legislators cannot start a critically important session according to their own religion?

    It is not forced on everyone present to participate, and it is arranged for the majority who willingly participate.

    How do you define “separation of church and state”, and where do you base it? Are we all to act like atheists to please you? Atheists don’t need prayer, because they only believe in themselves.

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