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When James “Duke” Aiona this week condemned what he described as a “despicable” social-media attack on his personal faith from supporters of Neil Abercrombie, he stated repeatedly that his appearances at Transformation Hawaii religious events were in his “personal capacity.”
But a review by Civil Beat shows Aiona, the Republican nominee for governor, was clearly identified at the events as Hawaii’s lieutenant governor and presented himself as lieutenant governor.
Aiona’s appearances have been used in promotional materials by Transformation Hawaii, which is the local chapter of International Transformation Network, an evangelical organization that seeks to “disciple nations.”
Civil Beat compared what Aiona said in his Oct. 20 press release and what the evidence shows. The claim that he was acting in his “personal capacity” does not withstand scrutiny.
For example, not only did Aiona hold up the seal of the State of Hawaii in a speech before the group, but the group also always identified him by his official role at the event and in promotional materials.
In Wednesday’s press release, Aiona stated he attended “select events organized by Transformation Hawaii” to promote Christian values and did so in his “personal capacity.” Aiona says his opponents have distorted comments Aiona made “in his personal capacity to welcome attendees of a Transformation Hawaii event, similar to other welcoming messages he has provided to numerous other community-based and faith-based organizations.”
However, when Aiona addressed a Transformation Hawaii event last November in Waikiki, he welcomed attendees “on behalf of the people of Hawaii.”
Aiona is seen holding dark-blue folders that display the state’s official seal. “Aloha from myself, Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona to all of you but in particular to Mr. Pastor Ed (Silvoso) and Pastor Alan,” he says.
Ed Silvoso, founder and CEO of International Transformation Hawaii, tells attendees at the Waikiki event that they have just been welcomed by “the authority in the land.” He says this as he holds up one of the folders.
Aiona is also identified in the event brochure as lieutenant governor.
Aiona’s appearances at such events have been used by the local and international Transformation groups for promotional materials.
In a clip from a 2005 video, Aiona, again identified as Hawaii lieutenant governor, invites viewers to an International Transformation Network conference in Honolulu “to experience God’s movement here in Hawaii,” he says.
Aiona is also shown holding hands and praying with Janet Kataha Museveni, the first lady of Uganda.
In a promotional clip for an International Transformation Network/Harvest Evangelism conference in Argentina in 2007, Aiona is identified as Hawaii lieutenant governor, saying, “It has taken me 9,000 miles, approximately, away from home, to understand what is happening in Uganda, what is happening in Argentina…”
(The clip also includes Democratic state Sen. Norman Sakamoto, also identified in his official capacity and endorsing the event.)
In a different medium — in the book “Catch a Wave of Transformation” — Aiona is the author of a chapter called “Praying at the Government Gate.” He is identified in the table of contents and in the chapter as lieutenant governor.
(Democratic state Sen. Gary Okino also contributes a chapter but does not use his official title.)
“Catch a Wave of Transformation” is edited by Caroline Ward Oda, who with husband Francis Oda leads Transformation Hawaii. Francis Oda is chairman of the International Transformation Network. Ed Silvoso wrote the book’s forward.
Aiona said in his press release that he is “not a member of Transformation Hawaii or the International Transformation Network.”
Asked if Aiona had been a member of either group in the past, campaign communications director Travis Taylor told Civil Beat Thursday that Aiona had not.
But a website archive from 2005 shows Harvest Evangelism’s website included a bio of Aiona that said in part, “He is Honorary Chair and active participant in ‘Transformation Hawai‘i.'”
(Harvest Evangelism is another name used by International Transformation Network.)
In a video clip identified as taken at a prayer assembly in Hilo in 2008, Aiona says, “I am part of a prayer evangelization program called Transformation Hawaii.”
Aiona has never shied from declaring how important his faith is to him, yet he has been careful to draw a line between church and state. But his comments at Transformation Hawaii events reveal a blurring of that line.
In a promotional DVD about Transformation Hawaii — titled “Transformation In The Marketplace With Ed Silvoso” — Aiona is again identified as Hawaii lieutenant governor.
He says in the DVD, “And we declare that our school will become God’s school and that our Hawaii will become God’s Hawaii. Lord Jesus Christ, as it is in heaven, see also in Hawaii, let your kingdom come and let your will be done. Amen.”
The DVD has a text box on the screen that says Aiona is speaking to the University of Hawaii in 2004.
The DVD also includes Aiona saying that communities need to “return to God” and that “Hawaii belongs to Jesus” who is “the light of the world, he is the light of Hawaii, and we invite you lord to be the light of our schools.” A narrator says Aiona’s “declaration of faith” was shared with more than 6,000 people in 77 Hawaii locations, who prayed for every high school in the state.
And, in video clips from the International Transformation Network conference in Waikiki in 2009, Aiona says, “You know, it’s easier to go to church, to go to God’s church, than it is to be God’s church. And that’s why we are all here, we are one body of Christ, we’re one church, and we are all here to disciple the nations — here in Hawaii and everywhere else, and I want you all to know that.”
In his press release, Aiona says that supporters of Abercrombie have inaccurately linked him to actions and viewpoints of others that he does not in any way condone. He says that he has never supported the incarceration of homosexuals, as proposed in Uganda, which he says is unconscionable.
The view of Silvoso is that gay people are possessed and in need of exorcism.
In his book, “Transformation: Change the Marketplace and You Change the World” (Regal Books; 2007), Silvoso writes, “As soon as the now ex-gay man came up from the waters, he was struck by the power of God, evicting the demonic forces that had controlled him for so long and rewriting his psyche correctly to enable him to feel like a man again.”