Published On: Tue, May 23rd, 2017

ADF asks Hawaii’s court to throw out atheist ‘baseless’ lawsuit against Oahu churches

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Jeremiah Galus and Senior Counsel Erik Stanley will be continuing oral arguments at the Intermediate Court of Appeals of the State of Hawaii in a case concerning their motion to dismiss a lawsuit against two Oahu churches. Two atheists falsely accused the two churches of defrauding the government—merely for being included among all the community groups that are allowed to use empty school buildings after hours.

ADF attorneys and James Hochberg, an ADF-allied attorney in Honolulu, represent two Oahu churches, One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu, against a baseless lawsuit claiming that the churches defrauded the state by violating Hawaii’s False Claims Act.

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photo via Pixabay user Succo

“Churches who serve the neediest in their communities should be welcomed, not driven out by false accusations,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremiah Galus, who will argue on their behalf before the court. “The claims in this baseless lawsuit are entirely false and are driven by an atheistic agenda that is hostile to churches. The facts and evidence show that these churches were at all times truthful and that they have made all required payments to the schools. No one benefits from this suit except the two atheists bringing it, who stand to gain financially if they are successful.”

In 2013, the atheists, Mitchell Kahle and Holly Huber, filed their original lawsuit, Kahle v. New Hope International Ministries, 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 fails to cite a single instance in which the churches submitted a false statement to defraud the government.  Additionally, the churches have made substantial contributions to the schools through donated improvements and volunteer time exceeding what was required under law. For example, during the several years that One Love Ministries rented Kaimuki High School, the church community provided mentoring of Kaimuiki students; performed landscaping and maintenance of the school campus; replaced the floor of the auditorium stage; invested in remodeling all of the campus bathrooms; and removed graffiti from the school on a weekly basis, among other enhancements.

“These churches have not only made all of the required rent payments, they’ve sacrificially given much more in service and funding to the schools and communities they love,” added ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “We are hopeful that the appeals court will dismiss this lawsuit that never should have been brought in the first place.”

ADF’s motion to dismiss on behalf of the two churches explained that Kahle and Huber “have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because they have not alleged and cannot allege that there were any false claims by One Love or Calvary Chapel. Because the existence of a false claim is a necessary element of a [bona fide] complaint, and because [Kahle’s and Huber’s] allegations, even if taken as true, demonstrate that no false claim exists (or can exist), their Complaint must be dismissed.”

The trial court originally ruled to dismiss the lawsuit, but due to conflicting federal law covering the same issue, the court allowed the atheists to amend their original complaint.
In 2014, the two churches filed an appeal of the trial court’s decision to allow the atheists’ baseless lawsuit to proceed.
“Since then, while the churches are still serving the ‘ohana of Hawaii, Mitchell Kahle and Holly Huber years ago moved away to Michigan,” added co-counsel James Hochberg of Honolulu—among the nearly 3,200 allied attorneys with ADF.
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