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Kawaiahao Church ordered to halt project

December 5, 2011
The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) - A judge has ordered officials of a Honolulu church to stop construction of a multipurpose center until the building site, formerly used as a cemetery, is cleared of all graves.

Circuit Judge Edwin Nacino ruled Friday that Kawaiahao Church could not continue the work until all burials are removed and the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs decertifies the site as a cemetery, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported Saturday.

Decertifying a cemetery involves clearing all human remains from the site, then advertising and holding a public hearing, the newspaper said. The church is also required to excavate at least 4 feet in search of remains.

The ruling is another setback for the leaders of Hawaii's oldest church over the controversial project, which was delayed for two years after initial discoveries of human remains were made in early 2009.

The judge's ruling Friday follows a temporary restraining order he issued after a hearing Tuesday.

Church leaders earlier this year thought they had the go-ahead to resume construction after obtaining a permit to disinter graves.

But a lawsuit filed last month by Paulette Kaleikini, who said she is related to three people buried at the project site, claimed that the church had violated the permit by beginning construction before the graves were removed.

The church had said it intended to remove all burials but argued that it could obtain cemetery decertification after the building was complete.

After the ruling, a church official issued a statement saying the church would comply with the court's decision.



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