Kenji Ornellas

The Freedom From Religion Foundation awarded 15-year-old Honolulu student Kenji Ornellas a $1,000 student activist award in 2002.

Kenji was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against his school, McKinley High, and the Hawaii Department of Education. He was challenging a student "code of honor" that includes the phrase "Love for God."

Kenji was nominated by Hawaii state-church activist Mitch Kahle, a Foundation member and director of Hawaii Citizens for Separation of Church & State, which lodged the original complaint in 2001.

The lawsuit, which names Kenji and his mother Carol Ann Ornellas as plaintiffs, was filed in federal court on July 17, 2002, by the ACLU of Hawaii. The code, which includes the wording, "As a student of McKinley, I stand for . . . Love For God and all Mankind," is in classrooms, the school handbook and the school song.

"I'm not sure if God exists or not, but I don't think it's right for the school to tell me, or any other student, that I should love God," Ornellas stated. "To me it is the same as the school telling me to love Buddha or Allah."

The code was composed in 1927 by students for a contest sponsored by a private corporation, which engraved it on a plaque. It was rediscovered in the 1990s, and placed at the main entrance to the school and printed on posters.

Freedom From Religion Foundation