by Andrew Walden
On March 6 Hawai’i Free Press carried an article reporting on SB501: “Hawaii lawmakers are censoring pro-lifers who were defending free speech”.
(Prior to key Senate Committee votes Feb 17 and 23,) the overwhelming majority of testimonies pro-lifers had submitted, including those of leaders and medical staff at the (pro-life pregnancy) centers, were held back from senators on the committee ahead of the vote.
"I told (Sen. Breene Harimoto) what happened with my testimony, and he's like, 'They're censoring you,'" said (Stacey Jimenez, director of operations for A Place for Women in Waipio — a ministry run by Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor.) "He brought in his top aide and he said, 'Listen to what she's telling you.' He says, 'They should not be able to censor your testimony.'"
After the meeting at Sen. Harimoto's office, Jimenez raised the concern with the legal counsel for Hawaii's state senate, who assured Jimenez he would look into the matter.
Now we have result--a sharp rebuke to the Senators from the Hawaii Attorney General.
In a March 29 letter to Harimoto, the State Attorney General's office explains:
the Senate is not authorized by the constitutions, statute or Senate rules to withhold, edit or redact the content of the testimony or to delay its distribution without infringing on those constitutional rights and should not do so unless the right to petition government is outweighed by some other overriding right. We do not see an overriding interest in the specific case described herein to warrant censorship of the testimony….
We know of no authority that allows or requires the Senate to redact or edit written testimony submitted by the public.
A check of the testimony posted online for SB501 shows Stacey Jimenez’ Feb 23 Senate testimony is still not posted but a similar testimony from Jiminez is posted for a House hearing April 5, 2017. (See: Page 56)
Representing Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor, attorney Jim Hochberg tells Hawai’i Free Press: “Our constitutional rights were clearly violated. This is a bill directed at our heart. The facts legislators are relying on are not true. This censored testimony was they key that an open-minded legislator should have been interested to hear.
“If the bill passes, I am already working on our lawsuit. We will challenge the bill as written and as processed.”
The State House is set to vote on SB501 Tuesday, April 11 at 9AM.
SB501: Text, Status
PDF: AG Opinion March 29, 2017
PDF: March 13, 2017 Lawyer Letter Debunked by AG
Hawaii Lawmakers Censor Pro-Lifers Defending Free Speech
Hawaii Abortion Mandate Copies California Law -- Headed for Supreme Court Hearing
CB: AG: Hawaii Senate Improperly Withheld Testimony From Public