Prison inmates from Hawaii will be allowed to celebrate an ancient festival

Wednesday, February 9th 2005, 5:43 am
By: News On 6

HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii inmates at an Oklahoma prison plan will get to celebrate an ancient Hawaiian festival this weekend.

About 100 men at the Diamondback Correctional Facility in Watonga plan to mark Makahiki with chanting, hula, a cleansing ritual and a feast with laulau, fish and poi.

The United Church of Christ denomination has roots that go back to the first missionaries in Hawaii and it supports the celebration. But other churches say United Church of Christ shouldn't support what they call a pagan religious practice.

Makahiki was an annual period of peace celebrated in ancient Hawaii with sports and religious activities. The festival also honors Lono, the Hawaiian god of agriculture, peace and fertility.

The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the Oklahoma prison, refused to allow the inmates to hold the event two years ago, but a 2003 lawsuit challenged that decision.

Attorneys for all sides have met to discuss a possible settlement.