A Hawaii court has dismissed two churches from a lawsuit that atheists brought against five congregations in the Aloha State accusing them of defrauding the government. The atheists failed to produce evidence.
The court found that atheists Mitchell Kahle and Holly Huber failed to sufficiently allege that One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu committed fraud by paying substandard rent to the public schools in which they meet, Alliance Defending Freedom, whose attorneys represented the two congregations, said in a statement Friday.
Kahle, the founder of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State, and public advocate Huber made the accusation despite the school districts agreeing that the churches have consistently paid all agreed-upon rents, said ADF, which has nearly 2,300 allied attorneys.
"Congregations serving the neediest in their communities should be welcomed, not driven out by bogus accusations resulting from a clear hostility to churches," said the group's senior legal counsel, Erik Stanley, who argued before the court last month. "The churches have been completely honest and have paid all required rent to the schools. The court has rightly thrown out this lawsuit and its invented claims against our clients."
The churches have not only faithfully paid all of their rent, they have given even more in service and funding to the schools and communities they love, said co-counsel James Hochberg of Honolulu, who is also with Alliance Defending Freedom. "Honestly, these churches are the exact opposite of how they are being characterized in this baseless lawsuit. It has been a shameful attack upon people completely undeserving of such animosity," he said.
The suit was filed under the state's False Claims Act, which allows "whistle-blowers" with inside information to expose fraudulent billing by government contractors. But the lawsuit failed to prove that the churches submitted any false statement to defraud the government.
The existence of a false claim is a necessary element of a False Claims Act complaint. Kahle and Huber also failed to meet several other requirements of the law, the group said. The atheists have 45 days to amend their complaint.