(c) Copyright 2003 - 2006, Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved
Some established ethnic Hawaiian churches have been politically active both historically and at present. Some politically liberal racially diverse churches have supported Hawaiian sovereignty, and one gave $1.5 Million "reparations."
In 1996 the national United Church of Christ apologized to Native Hawaiians for the role of its predecessor church and the members of that church, who helped overthrow the monarchy in 1893. The national church gave some land, and $1.5 Million, to the governing body of the United Church of Christ in Hawaii to be distributed among today's ethnic Hawaiian churches that are members of the United Church of Christ. As of 1999, 48 ethnic Hawaiian churches had been given $28,000 each. However, Hawaiian activists expressed great disappointment and near anger, because of the fact that the national church organization was simply giving its money to its own member churches rather than giving the money directly to ethnic Hawaiians or to Hawaiian sovereignty organizations. Some of the money did find its way to an organization called the Pu'a Foundation, but not much.
The American Friends Service Committee is the social action arm of the Quakers. It works for peace, pacifism, and demilitarization. In Hawai'i AFSC also works for Hawaiian sovereignty, strongly supporting the independence movement and providing money and institutional resources to the activists. For example, the AFSC sponsors panel discussions on Hawaiian sovereignty at the University of Hawai'i Center for Hawaiian Sovereignty, and sponsors political rallies and leafletting at 'Iolani Palace. Demilitarization is an important goal of the sovereignty activists, who believe the U.S. military "armed invasion" (162 peacekeeper sailors) in 1893 was the essential factor responsible for the overthrow; and that the continuing U.S. military presence since 1898 has been part of a "belligerant occupation" of the ancestral homeland. Pushing the U.S. military out of Hawai'i would be the first step toward ripping the 50th star off the flag. Thus the religious interest of the Quakers in demilitarizing Hawai'i coincides with the political interest of the sovereignty activists.
Hawai'i has its share of real and imagined "reverends" of Hawaiian ancestry who play active roles in the sovereignty movement, comparable to the roles of the African-American civil rights activists Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton. Thus far there has not been an ethnic Hawaiian spiritual/political leader of the stature of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, although one minister probably had hopes for such stature until he met with resistance from politically conservative ethnic Hawaiians who are patriotic toward America.
A Maui man who was never ordained as a minister and has never presided over a congregation nevertheless bills himself as Rev. Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Senior. To his friends and fellow activists he is known affectionately as "Uncle Charlie." He maintains a Hawaiian sovereignty website which includes essays on how he became a "reverend" and how he has a special relationship with sharks because they are his family aumakua. See: http://www.moolelo.com/ Over the years he has become accepted as a leader of the ethnic Hawaiian community throughout all of Hawai'i. He is often called upon to preside over community meetings, including the important "Reconciliation" hearings of 1999 in which representatives of President Clinton's Department of Justice and Department of Interior held highly contentious public hearings. The hearings were allegedly for the purpose of listening to Native Hawaiians to see what goodies they would like from the federal government by way of reparations for the overthrow of the monarchy, in accord with the Apology bill of 1993 (the hearings were actually a political ploy to sell the concept of creating an Indian tribe for ethnic Hawaiians, to protect race-based government programs, in anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling in Rice v. Cayetano). Uncle Charlie has also been for many years the Chairman of the Hawai'i Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, where he has used his leadership position to hold public hearings of the "Civil Rights" commission to support the political position that it is right for government to use taxpayer dollars to support programs that are racially exclusionary.
Mr. Maxwell has established a reputation for shaking down businesses and government agencies for financial and political concessions, in the manner of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. He uses foul language and personal invective in face-to-face confrontations, and has given opening or closing "prayers" at public meetings that single out an individual opponent in the audience and ask God to reach into the heart of the opponent and change his mind. He has made several speeches, and published newspaper articles, containing thinly veiled threats of violence. He warns his audiences that Hawaiians are very needy, they are entitled to massive reparations for the "theft" of "their nation" and "their land" and "destruction" of their culture, that their "backs are up against the wall," and that Hawaiians are "a warrior people." The clear implication is, give us what we want or we'll rise up. See:
Another ethnic Hawaiian political activist well known in the community, who is a real, ordained minister, is Rev. Kaleo Patterson. He earned his Master of Divinity degree at Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine and a doctorate in ministry from the Chicago Theological Seminary. He is a pastor at the small ethnic Hawaiian Ka Hana O Ke Akua Church in Wai'anae, and president of the Pacific Justice and Reconciliation Center. Since 1995 he was also Associate Pastor at the historic Kaumakapili Church in Honolulu, and used the church as a meeting place for Hawaiian independence activism. He was arrested several times during political/social protests, including an arrest for anti-military activity at Barking Sands on Kaua'i and an arrest for protesting and interfering with evictions of homeless beach squatters in Makua, O'ahu. He got some national attention for his writings about the "illegal overthrow" of the Hawai'i monarchy and the "illegal annexation" of Hawai'i to the United States. He compared American occupation of Hawai'i with the brutal Roman occupation of Palestine during the time of Christ. The Rev. Dr. Kaleo Patterson probably hoped to acquire the stature of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, but his hopes were dashed when he was rejected as Pastor by the congregation of Kawaiaha'o Church. Soon thereafter he also lost his job as associate pastor at Kaumakapili Church when they declined to offer him renewal of his contract.
Kawaiaha'o Church, across the street from 'Iolani Palace, is the most prestigious and historically significant church in Hawai'i. Founded by the first Christian missionary Hiram Bingham in 1820, it was rebuilt 22 years later out of 14,000 huge half-ton blocks of coral harvested underwater by natives using simple hand-tools. This is the church where the monarchs and high-ranking ali'i worshipped, alongside the missionary and sugar planter families. From the steps of the newly rebuilt church in 1843, Gerrit Judd and King Kauikeaouli stood side by side to celebrate the return of sovereignty following five months of a rogue British military occupation; and it was here that the King uttered his famous one-liner "Ua mau ke ea o ka 'aina i ka pono." For a description of the church and its historical significance, see:
Following the retirement of Kawaiaha'o's Pastor Kaina in 1997, a three-year search led to the appointment of a new pastor James Fung in 2000; but 18 months later Pastor Fung resigned on the grounds that his New-England style did not fit well with the congregation. Another search produced the recommendation to appoint Rev. Patterson. Immediately, a Honolulu Star-Bulletin editorial on October 24, 2002 supported Rev. Patterson's nomination to be pastor.
But despite the favorable editorial a major controversy erupted within the congregation of the church and also in the ethnic Hawaiian community. After several months of wrangling, for the first time in the history of the church the nominee to be Pastor was rejected by the congregation. According to media reports the nomination was rejected partly because of Rev. Patterson's arrest record, partly because of his somewhat scruffy appearance, partly because there was an undercurrent of scandal due to an investigation of alleged improprities, and partly because of Patterson's outspoken anti-American Hawaiian sovereignty independence activism.
The political stance of Rev. Patterson on Hawaiian sovereignty was probably far more important in causing his rejection than the media reported. For example, every July 4 the church hosts a patriotic American celebration. During the week surrounding July 4, 2002 there were huge American flags draping the inside of Kawaiaha'o Church, placed on every pillar and hung from the rear balcony. The American and Hawaiian flags were on the altar dais. At a special event inside the church the Royal Hawaiian Band played patriotic American songs. Long strings of red, white, and blue balloons suspended over the altar were released from the church steps after the service, sailing high into the sky. The church's master of ceremonies for that event later said they've been doing that for many years; it's normal practice for this very Hawaiian church. Clearly the mainstream, moderate Hawaiian community is filled with patriotic Americans. The July 4 events at the church contrast starkly with the events across the street at 'Iolani Palace, where a group of Hawaiian independence activists has a rally every July 4. For a report on the July 4, 2002 Palace event see:
If Rev. Patterson's nomination had been confirmed by the congregation, the anti-American rhetoric from across the street, on the Palace grounds every July 4, would have come into the church as anti-American sermons. The church would have been harnessed as a sovereignty vehicle with far greater reach and influence than Reverend Patterson's former church venues at Kaumakapili and in Wai'anae. According to a newspaper article the sovereignty activists were present in substantial numbers on the steps of the church as the congregation members went in to their meeting to decide whether to confirm him. But the activists were unable to pressure the congregation into approving Reverend Patterson.
Here are excerpts from two newspaper articles describing the rejection of Rev. Patterson.
In a historic vote, Kawaiaha'o Church members yesterday rejected Kaleo Patterson as the new kahu. It was the first time in the church's 160-year history that the congregation said no to a nominee for senior pastor. Friends and family had gathered on the steps of Kawaiaha'o, known as the "Westminster Abbey of the Pacific," to show support for Patterson as congregants filed into the nearby church hall. Despite a flurry of lobbying by some in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, Patterson's backers suspected he would be a hard sell. In earlier interviews, Patterson talked about his activism, which earned him a national profile and also got him arrested about six times for trespassing and resisting arrest, though all charges were dismissed. "I'm too much of an activist for the Christian church and too Christian for the activists," he said. "It's a very lonely place to be."
Kawaiaha'o Church members have rejected the nomination of Hawaiian sovereignty activist Kaleo Patterson as senior pastor. After morning services yesterday at which Patterson delivered the sermon, dozens of congregation members gathered in a room adjacent to the landmark church to vote on the nomination. One woman told the group, "I don't believe he's ready." Another woman said, "I don't believe he's the right person for Kawaiaha'o." At that point, members of the media, who had initially been asked to wait outside the room, were escorted off church property. Patterson speculated that he was rejected for varying reasons: an allegation of impropriety lodged after he was nominated, his bearded and long-haired appearance, his arrest record and his role as a Hawaiian sovereignty activist.
Pestana said: "He's not a clean-cut-looking guy. Some people don't share (his view) in the movement (sovereignty)." Pastoral Search Committee members were looking for a pastor who was knowledgeable of Hawaiian issues. They also preferred someone of Hawaiian ancestry who was fluent in the language.
Though Patterson was not selected as the senior kahu, he said he thought "it was important to at least be considered." "We don't have very many Hawaiian ministers in the denomination." Patterson said he is looking forward to returning to his duties he had put on hold since being nominated. He has been an associate pastor for Kaumakapili Church in Kalihi since 1995. His contract at the church ends next month. Patterson is also a pastor at Ka Hana O Ke Akua Church in Waianae. "I'm from the country," Patterson said. "Kawaiaha'o is a city church."
To see an example of Rev. Patterson's radicalism on Hawaiian sovereignty, here is the full text of an article he published in the nationwide Methodist "Christian Social Action Magazine" of February 2001
Hawaiians Yearn Still for Freedom
Church plays role in offering hope, seeking justice and reconciliation
by Rev. Dr. Kaleo Patterson
Many people in the world today are of the belief that Hawaii is the
50th state of the United States of America. Of course! It's as
obvious as the marvelous stones in the Jerusalem Temple that Jesus
said would not be left standing one upon the other. Jesus' disciples
marveled at the impressive nature of the Temple, the permanence of it
all. They were not fully aware of the co-opted, corruptive, and
colonized nature that had permeated the Temple religious
establishment, helplessly devoted and fully utilized for activities
such as exploitation of the poor for their own financial gain.
Today in Hawaii the marvelous stones of the temple of Hawaiian
Statehood and its historic colonial establishment are beginning to
crumble into a rubble heap of political intrigue. The legal basis for
both colonialism and statehood have been not only thoroughly disputed
in recent years but also emptied of any legal or political
legitimacy. Not many once-marvelous stones are left standing one upon
another. As the stones are rolled away, the efforts of decolonization
in Hawaii today are taking on new life.
One of the major stones to tumble in the last couple of years was the
rediscovery of the petition against the proposed annexation of Hawaii
in 1898. During the annexation, it was not common knowledge or
perhaps was just dismissed that more than 40,000 Kanaka Maoli voted
against Hawaii's annexation. These 40,000 people comprised more than
90 percent of the indigenous native peoples of Hawaii at the time.
The petition, recently discovered in Washington D.C., was copied,
enlarged, and displayed as a memorial to the resistance of the time.
The petition was also used to commemorate and educate the Kanaka
Maoli about the truth of colonial manipulation. Thousands of ohana
(families) from throughout the islands came to find the names of
their own family members in the petition and begain to reclaim the
truth and reconnect with the ku'e (fighting spirit) of their
In understanding colonialism in Hawaii today it is important to
recognize the corresponding parallels in the biblical story. The
period and events in which Jesus lived are significant because they
provide the context in which to analyze the context of US colonialism
Historically, Israel was one of the last holdouts against the
colonizing expansionism of the Roman Empire. Other nation states in
the region, not strong enough to resist, had succumbed. Israel, like
the others, was plucked from the delicate and non-threatening vine of
its own sovereignty.
This is the world that Jesus was born into, wrapped in second-hand
clothes and placed in a shelter made for farm animals. When he played
in the streets of Nazareth, brushed the sawdust out of his hair, or
went on a pilgrimage with his ohana to the Temple in Jerusalem,
around him was the world of the Roman occupation. In Palestine, Roman
soldiers were everywhere, just as they are in Hawaii and Puerto Rico
today. Jesus lived and ministered during a reign of terror, the
humiliating subjugation of his people, the exploitation of the
masses, and their spiritual bankruptcy. We must see this context if
we are to begin to understand colonialism in the church.
Plucked from its history
Hawaii cannot be understood, nor can its people, outside of the
Manifest Destiny of the United States a century ago. It does not
matter that Hawaii, unlike Puerto Rico, Guam or American Samoa, now
holds Statehood; what matters is that a foreign power, not unlike the
Roman Empire, plucked a friendly nation from its history, cultural
roots, land, language, and destiny. Hawaii today is literally a
In the past year, efforts by the Hawaii Ecumenical Coalition (HEC),
with the support of the General Board of Church and Society of The
United Methodist Church, facilitated several gatherings to respond to
U.S. efforts to initiate a "process of reconciliation." These efforts
on the part of the United States are borne out of Public Law 102-50
known as the Apology Resolution. The HEC also brought together more
than 30 activist groups and community organizations a year ago to
form an all-island justice network called Aha Kua ("the strength of
the people"). The three-day gathering provided opportunity to discuss
the issues of our colonialization C demilitarization, tourism
development, health, evictions, and land struggles.
Last January, an important first-time meeting of pro-independence
organizations and advocates convened at Kauamakpili Church in
Honolulu. The meeting resulted in a joint analysis and statement on
reconciliation. This statement reasserts the context of deep-level
colonization and the need for decolonization and total independence.
Further meetings were held to begin solidarity work among the many
organizations represented in the new independence initiative. Last
fall, these groups formally organized under the name of Hawaiians
United for Liberation and Independence (HULI).
The reconciliation efforts of HULI and the Coalition are part of an
effort to organize increased involvement of all church denominations
in Hawaii to work together for a peaceful and non-violent
decolonization and independence for Hawaii. As the movement continues
to grow it will become an important role of the church to become the
living presence of Christ in the midst of the people, to seek hope
and reconciliation, and to be a part of rebuilding the foundations of
a just society for all the people of Hawaii.
In April 2006 the same Rev. Kaleo Patterson (ab)used religion for political purposes by calling for a national day of prayer in support of government handouts and political sovereignty as reparations for ethnic Hawaiians. He set April 30 as the date, based on a false claim that U.S. President Grover Cleveland had issued a Presidential Proclamation in 1894 setting aside that date as a national day of mourning and prayer for the overthrow of the monarchy. The Associated Press published articles in dozens of newspapers throughout the U.S. reporting that Presidential Proclamation as fact, merely because Patterson made a pilgrimage to the grave of President Cleveland and announced it to the press. But Patterson's stunt proved quite embarrassing because it was proved that Cleveland never really issued any such proclamation, and that a joke-proclamation intended as political satire against Cleveland, which was published in a single newspaper, had actually named April 1 (April Fool's Day) as the date. The fake Cleveland proclamation is one of many Hawaiian sovereignty historical falsehoods that have come to be accepted as tru in the sovereignty movement. Many months after this fiasco, it is unclear whether Reverend Patterson was aware the story of the Presidential Proclamation is false, or whether he naively believed what he read on various sovereignty websites and zealously implemented his political/religious stunt. But it is very clear that he was informed of the falsehood several days before the "National Day of Prayer" and nevertheless went ahead with his stunt. See:
"Twisting History -- Reverend Kaleo Patterson Cites 112 Year Old Joke as Fact And Launches Media Blitz -- National Day of Prayer set for April 30, 2006 to support ethnic Hawaiian economic and political causes, based on fake 1894 proclamation attributed to President Grover Cleveland that was actually sarcasm directed against him" at:
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