The low-keyed dedication of the Mö‘ili‘ili Torï took place at 2 p.m. on January 22 in the small triangular parcel of land located between King and Beretania streets. The dignitaries included Jeremy Harris, mayor of the City and County of Honolulu; Toshihiro Hiyama, chairman of the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly; Kazuo Kumata, director of the International Relations Division for the City of Hiroshima; Howard Hanada, chairman of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce (HJCC); and Köichi Ikeuchi, chairman of the Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The 90 or so people who were invited to — or learned about — the dedication witnessed the cutting of the ceremonial maile lei and the unveiling of two plaques.
A few months ago, prior to its construction, the torï sparked a controversy, resulting in various complaints. Rob Perez of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported on the controversy, but provided little useful information to help readers understand the function of torï. Malia Zimmerman of MidWeek profiled Mitchell Kahle of Hawai‘i Citizens for the Separation of State and Church (HCSSC) and related his role in the controversy. The Herald received letters from Brent White, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); Alfred Bloom, professor emeritus of religion at the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa; and Irene Isa Takizawa, a practitioner of Shrine Shintö. The gist of their complaint is that the torï should not be allowed to remain on public land because it violates the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment, that is, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” HCSSC already has sent a formal letter of complaint to Mayor Harris.
The Herald supports the separation of church and state. However, before charging that the Mö‘ili‘ili Torï violates the U.S. Constitution, one has first to establish that it is a religious artifact or symbol. Many of the complaints about the Mö‘ili‘ili Torï seem to be based on an inadequate or narrow understanding of Shintö, and the function of torï. The ambiguous nature of Shintö, in its various forms, obscures clear black-and-white definitions.
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