Court Dismisses Most of Atheist Lawsuit Against Hawaiian Churches
by Heather Clark, Christian News, May 29, 2014
HONOLULU, Hawaii – A Hawaiian court has dismissed the majority of an atheist lawsuit that asserted that several area churches had bamboozled area public schools out of millions in rental fees.
As previously reported, the suit, Kahle v. New Hope International Ministries, was filed by atheists Mitchell Kahle and Holly Huber in March of last year.
Kahle, the founder of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State, and public advocate Huber, alleged that five churches in Hawaii that rent school facilities for worship have committed fraud by using false records or statements to “reduce or forgo payment of rental fees or utility charges.”
The complaint filed in the First Circuit Court of Hawaii asserted that the churches collectively owe the government $5.6 million in that they filed false applications to obtain discounted rates and have used the facilities for longer than their contracts allow. Kahle and Huber lodged the complaint under the state’s False Claims Act.
“They’re there so long and they’re so cozy; they just take a whole bunch of extra time,” Kahle told reporters in August. “They come in on Saturday even though they’re only supposed to be there on Sunday.”
But in October, the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a motion of dismiss the suit, stating that Kahle and Huber had failed to establish that the churches had presented any false claims.
Following a hearing over the matter, Judge Virginia Crandall agreed with ADF that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the churches have violated the law. However, she also permitted Kahle and Huber to refile the lawsuit with more specific details in regard to the accusations.
However, during a hearing on Tuesday, Crandall dismissed the majority of the refiled suit due to insufficient evident of false claims submitted to the government. ADF had asked the court to dismiss the challenge in totality.
“The only thing these churches have done is serve the schools and bring great benefit to their surrounding communities,” ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley said in a written statement. “No one benefits from this suit except the two atheists bringing it, who stand to gain financially if they are successful.”
“As ADF has said all along, their legal attack is baseless,” he continued. “The court did the right thing in gutting this lawsuit of its substance, and we are confident that the minor pieces that remain will be dismissed as well. We appreciate the serious research and consideration the court has dedicated to this ruling.”
As previously reported, one of the churches that had been a part of the suit, New Hope Church, agreed to pay $775,000 in February to settle the matter. According to reports, $200,000 went to Kahle and the rest to the state school system. The church, however, did not admit any wrongdoing, but rather stated that it decided to settle to avoid ongoing legal entanglements.
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Court guts renewed lawsuit against Oahu churches
From Alliance Defending Freedom May 27, 2014
The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley regarding a Hawaii court’s decision at a hearing Tuesday to dismiss most of a renewed lawsuit against two Oahu churches that falsely accuses them of defrauding the government simply for paying agreed-upon rent to the public schools in which they meet:
“The only thing these churches have done is serve the schools and bring great benefit to their surrounding communities. No one benefits from this suit except the two atheists bringing it, who stand to gain financially if they are successful. As ADF has said all along, their legal attack has no substance. The court did the right thing in gutting this lawsuit of its substance, and we are confident that the minor pieces that remain will be dismissed as well. We appreciate the serious research and consideration the court has dedicated to this ruling.”
Resource page: Kahle v. One Love Ministries
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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ADF to Hawaii court: Dismiss renewed attack on churches
News Release from ADF Friday, May 23, 2014
- WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley and allied attorney James Hochberg
- WHAT: Available for media interviews following hearing on motion to dismiss filed in Kahle v. One Love Ministries
- WHEN: Tuesday, May 27, immediately following hearing, which begins at 9 a.m. HAST
- WHERE: Hawaii First Circuit Court, 777 Punchbowl Street, Honolulu
HONOLULU — Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys will be available for media interviews following a hearing Tuesday concerning their motion to dismiss a renewed lawsuit that two atheists have filed against the congregations. The atheists are once again falsely accusing the two churches, One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu, of defrauding the government even though the court dismissed their claims earlier this year.
The new suit again claims the churches committed fraud by paying discounted rent to the public schools in which they meet even though the school district agree that the churches have consistently paid all agreed-upon rents. In January, the court found that atheists Mitchell Kahle and Holly Huber failed to sufficiently allege any evidence of fraud.
“These churches have not only faithfully paid all of their rent, they’ve sacrificially given much more in service and funding to the schools and communities they love,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “The court rightly threw out this lawsuit and its invented claims against our clients in January, and we are asking the court to do so again.”
“Congregations serving the neediest in their communities deserve better than trumped-up accusations stemming from a clear hostility to churches,” added co-counsel James Hochberg of Honolulu, one of more than 2,300 allied attorneys with ADF.
Kahle and Huber filed their original suit with Hawaii’s Circuit Court of the First Circuit under the state’s False Claims Act. The law allows “whistleblowers” with inside information to expose fraudulent billing by government contractors; however, the lawsuit includes no evidence of false statements or fraud of any sort.
The court allowed Kahle and Huber to amend their complaint within 45 days of the dismissal order if they believed they could sufficiently allege any violation of the False Claims Act. The amended complaint in Kahle v. One Love Ministries again fails to demonstrate any wrongdoing.
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PDF: May 21, 2014 DEFENDANTS ONE LOVE MINISTRIES AND CALVARY CHAPEL CENTRAL OAHU REPLY MEMORANDUM