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Lingle schools state GOP on religious diversity

By Derrick DePledge

LAST UPDATED: 12:22 p.m. HST, Feb 19, 2011

Former Gov. Linda Lingle challenged Hawaii Republicans last night to be more inclusive, citing the party's frequent practice of opening events with Christian prayers though people, like her, are of different faiths.

Lingle, who is Jewish, said she has mentioned the Christian prayers on several occasions, but GOP leaders have apparently not understood.

"Almost all of you know that I'm Jewish," she told Republicans last night at the party's Lincoln Day Dinner at Hilton Hawaiian Village. "But I come to these dinners year in and year out, and no matter how often I make the suggestion, the prayer always involves Jesus Christ."

Lingle said she respects her Christian, Catholic and Mormon friends but wonders what Jews, Buddhists and people of other faiths at GOP events think when "they are never given the respect when the prayer is given."

"And I mention that not because I walk around thinking about that all day long, but because it's reflective of a closed group that says, 'This is who we are.' But we are much, much more than simply Christians. We certainly are Christians but we're also Jewish. We're also Buddhist. We're made up of all kinds of people.

"And when you send the message out of exclusivity, people don't want to join your group."

Lingle said minority Republicans need to have broader appeal to have any chance to create a competitive two-party system in Hawaii.

The former governor said Republicans can appeal to independents and Democrats with a message of fiscal conservatism given the widespread concern about government deficits. "But we can't sit down and watch commentators on Fox News Network and then come out and run a campaign on that basis," she said.

"It's not going to work in Hawaii. It hasn't worked. It will never work."

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