HONOLULU (CN) – Hawaii’s governor violates traditional Hawaiians’ religion by prohibiting them from praying near the summit of Mauna Kea during construction of a 30-meter telescope, a temple’s kahuna claims in court.
The 13,796-foot volcano is central to traditional Hawaiian religion. The access road toward the summit has been closed during construction of the $1.4 billion 30-meter telescope.
Reflecting telescopes are measured by the size of their mirrors. For comparison, the Hale Telescope on Mount Palomar, which was the largest in the world until 1993, is 200 inches, or 5.1 meters across.
The plaintiff group staged a protest on June 24, which prevented workers from getting to the work site. Two days later the co-defendant Mauna Kea Management Board told them “they would only be allowed to ascend the mountain at 1 p.m.,” that only 10 could worship atop the mountain at a time, and that they must be accompanied by a ranger.”
They sued the state and its Department of Land and Natural Resources on July 6.
Frank Kamealoha Anuumealani Nobriga sued in his capacity as Kahuna of The Temple of Lono.
His group built several lava rock walls and two small stone shrines on the access road during their June 24 protest, preventing machinery and people from getting to the work site.
“Protesters were literally prying rocks and boulders out of the sides of the slopes and rolling them onto the road,” University of Hawaii spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said.
The Mauna Kea hosts a collection of independent astronomy groups, coordinated by the University of Hawaii.
The university and the Management Board closed the summit road beginning to all but authorized personnel until further notice.
The protesters seek the same access that astronomers, water trucks and others are getting.
The university and the Management Board replied in a statement that “accommodations have and continue to be made for those wishing to engage in traditional and customary practices in accordance to an agreement made with the protestor leadership and based on available resources.”
They added that “discussions are ongoing with the protestor leadership to develop plans that would best accommodate cultural practitioners.”
Worshipers were advised to take the Humuula trail instead.
The university-run Mauna Kea visitor information station, at about 9,000 feet elevation, is also closed due to sanitation concerns after protesters’ weeklong encampment at the Mauna Kea summit.
“It is a forest reserve. It is a hunting area. All of this is not conducive for people to be there overnight for a long period of time. It has created a threat to natural resources and public safety,” Attorney General Doug Chin said in an interview.
Along with signs and symbols, protesters brought blankets, backpacks and even bathrooms to the access road.
Chin said emergency rules would be in place for 120 days.
Native Hawaiians consider Mauna Kea sacred and the construction of the telescope a desecration of a sacred site.
The Kahuna seeks a restraining order and injunction giving his group access.
He is represented by Lanny Alan Sinkin, of Hilo.
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