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2 churches hear verdict in fight with atheists

Calvary Chapel Oahu congregation

Two atheists who sued several Hawaiian churches that rent school facilities to use on weekends have lost their case, again.

According to a report from the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing a couple of the churches, a judge on Tuesday dismissed most of the complaint.

The court had reached the same conclusion several months ago – but allowed the atheists to refile their action and try again.

“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,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley.

“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.”

The atheists, Mitchell Kahle and Holly Huber, sued several churches because they claimed the congregations were cheating the school districts by not paying enough rent.

ADF represented two of the churches, One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oaho.

The complaint was filed under a whistleblower-protection statute that allows those with insider information to take action to protect the taxpayers.

But ADF said there wasn’t any evidence.

“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,” Stanley said.

Stanley said earlier, “The claims in the lawsuit are false and are driven by an atheistic agenda that is hostile to churches. The undeniable fact is that these churches were at all times truthful, and they have paid all required rent to the schools.”

He continued, “Because the existence of a false claim is a necessary element of a False Claims Act complaint, and because [Kahle’s and Huber’s] allegations, even if taken as true, demonstrate that no false claim exists (or can exist), the complaint must be dismissed.”

The atheists alleged that churches were not paying the correct rental rates, were not paying for utilities, schools were accepting in-kind improvements instead of rent, school officials were not charging for set-up and break-down time, and other violations.

But the ADF brief argued the allegations are “not regulatory violations, and principals and the [schools] have authority to set the terms of rental for school buildings, just as they would for any other renter.”

The ADF brief said that although the plaintiffs “publicly accused the defendant churches of ‘stealing from public schools’ … they provide no support for such an incendiary and harmful allegation.”

ADF believes that in “today’s litigious atmosphere the relators’ lawsuit stands as a prime example of the type of lawsuit that never should have been brought.”

“The harm already inflicted on defendants’ reputations, which can never be fully undone, is precisely why the courts have set such rigorous standards in FCA actions – standards the relators have failed to meet in every respect,” the ADF stated.