Mitch D’Olier, President and CEO of Kaneohe Ranch Company, is one of 10 members on the roundtable’s executive committee. The committee wants Gov. Linda Lingle to veto the Hawaii civil unions bill because of legal concerns about implementation requirements.
D’Olier also serves on the forum’s board1, “which consists of local businesses and community leaders dedicated to Christian service.” The forum was created in 1998, the same year Hawaii voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The forum has been at the forefront of the fight against same-sex civil rights ever since.
Asked about the two roles, D’Olier told Civil Beat Wednesday, “If you are trying to make an allegation that there is a connection, it is absolutely false. There is no connection between the forum and the roundtable.”
But Dennis Arakaki, the forum’s executive director, says D’Olier has sat in meetings where the board has discussed civil unions.
“He’s there when we discuss it, but he hasn’t stated his view one way or the other,” said Arakaki. The board must sign off on all forum policy stances, he said.
The link to the Hawaii Family Forum website that identified board members was active when this article was posted on July 1, but that day the page was placed “under construction,” making the information unavailable.
Oda told Civil Beat D’Olier “has not been that involved and hasn’t been involved for awhile” with the forum. Like Arakaki, he said he did not know where D’Olier stood on the issue of civil unions.
The stance of the forum is by no means unclear. The forum says “it is mandated by scripture” that “Christians get involved in public policy,” including policy that has an impact on “our children and our families. The Bible tells us to render under Caesar that which is Caesar’s and render unto God what is HIS. We live in a representative democracy and it is our right and responsibility to be involved in our government.”
Oda said D’Olier sits on many boards. “So to tie his membership with one to another is not as relevant as thinking, ‘Here’s Mitch, an upstanding guy, and he doesn’t speak for one board or the others.’ Anyone who sits on multiple boards, you don’t take the message from one board to another.”
Among the other boards D’Olier, a 1 former ruling elder at First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu, sits on is Hawaiian Islands Ministries. Its mission is to “to equip, unify, and encourage pastors and leaders in Christian ministry” through seminars and conferences.
Kaneohe Ranch manages the real estate owned by the family trust and limited liability companies of Harold K.L. Castle and Alice H. Castle and nonprofit charitable foundation, the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation. Its properties and investments are located in Kaneohe, Kailua, downtown Honolulu, and seven mainland states.
The roundtable executive committee’s June 4 letter to Lingle has upset supporters of HB 444, including some members of the 46-member roundtable. Many say they were not consulted about the executive committee’s action.
After the uproar, the committee clarified that it does not oppose civil unions, just HB 444.
D’Olier made the same point to Civil Beat, saying he is “disappointed” by the roundtable fallout and the “lack of clarity about the roundtable’s position.”
D’Olier declined to comment on how the executive committee came to draft its June 4 letter, saying, “It’s an internal matter for the roundtable.”
He added that he remains concerned about the retroactive date of Jan. 1, 2010, in HB 444.
The state Attorney General’s Office wrote in a Nov. 25 opinion that the date would not invalidate the bill.
Today, the forum is the leading religious group lobbying to bar civil unions. It is affiliated with Focus on the Family, one of the nation’s most influential evangelical advocacy group based in Colorado Springs.
In 2003 the forum established an “official partnership” with the Hawaii Catholic Conference to lobby on behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu. The conference is also headed by Arakaki, a former Democratic legislator.
The forum’s webpage says it is a nonprofit, “pro-family research and education organization, dedicated to protecting, preserving and strengthening Hawaii’s families.”
The forum has two boards: the one that includes D’Olier, Oda and influential community figures like Bill Paty, a longtime Hawaii businessman; and a pastors advisory board comprised of representatives of about 20 churches.
Issues of interest to the forum include physician-assisted suicide, age of consent, stem-cell research, abortion, gambling, and housing and the homeless. Many of those issues have been at the forefront of the Legislature’s agenda in recent years, with the outcome in most cases in the forum’s favor.
At least that was the case until May 2010, when the Legislature unexpectedly passed HB 444. Lingle has until Tuesday to sign, veto or let the bill become law without her signature.
Share your thoughts on what the roundtable has done and the new positions taken by a few members of its executive committee.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Mitch D’Olier is currently a ruling elder at First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu.