Lawsuit accusing churches of fraud temporarily dismissed

Lawsuit accusing churches of fraud temporarily dismissed

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One Love Ministries and the Calvary Chapel Central Oahu are two of the five churches accused of shorting schools more than $5.6 million in rent and fees. Today those two churches asked for the case to be dismissed. The judge agreed but gave plaintiffs 45 days rewrite their complaint and add more specifics proving fraud.

"We're happy that the court did dismiss the complaint. If the plaintiffs do come back again and re-file we'll ask for it to be dismissed again," said Erik Stanley, Alliance Defending Freedom Attorney, representing the two churches.

"If you think about it, what has been the result here? We are just going to put more detail into the public record. How that advances the churches cause I'm not sure," said Jim Bickerton, Attorney for Plaintiff's Mitch Kahle and Holly Huber.

The crux of the case comes down to "use." The accusation is churches will hold their Sunday service but they'll set up and take down for hours before and after and not pay for that time even though no one else can use the facilities. The court wants more detail proving those claims.

"One of the problems is that we alleged that the churches as a group were all doing this which they are but we didn't specify which church was doing what. We listed all the things they were doing, we listed all the churches that were doing it, and the judge wants us to connect that so each church is connected to a particular activity and to a particular false statement so it's very clear who is on first and who's on second," said Bickerton. "The focus of our case is you put down two hours but you were there for five or seven hours. That's the guts of the case."

The Alliance Defending Freedom claims the plaintiffs only gathered public information and made the fraud claim, which they aren't allowed to do.

"They don't have anything new to add to what's already been publicly out there. Everybody knows what these churches are doing and there is no fraud," said Stanley.

"To know when people are actually using the schools you have to go down and actually watch. That's what Mitch and Holly did over the course of a year. They went down and watched and observed at all of these churches, took notes, took photos and kept a detailed log," said Bickerton.

The churches do say the case has already had an impact saying some principals are charging more.

"I think some of the principals got spooked by the controversy and went in an extreme direction to protect themselves," said Jim Hochberg, Alliance Defending Freedom Attorney, representing the two churches. "The DOE loses, the churches lose, Mitch Kahle gets his way and everybody else suffers."

One Love Ministries is now using its offices for services instead of school facilities. Calvary Chapel Central Oahu says its paying Mililani High School four times the amount in rent now. It can be argued the plaintiffs have already won regardless of the outcome in court.

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