SAND ISLAND, OAHU (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - The city council is considering whether to spend $250,000 on the expansion of New Hope Oahu at Sand Island.
The ACLU says it's a troubling implication that public money would be used to fund religious operations, but Pastor Ken Silva says the money would help build a five-level parking structure, available to the public for free.
"In Sand Island, I don't care if you're a business or a church, there is no parking," Silva said. "One of the main benefits to the community though, is that everything above the third story we can use for emergencies, tsunamis, floods or anything like that."
Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin and Councilman Joey Manahan added the request to their latest proposed budget amendments on the church's behalf.
Neither would speak on camera Tuesday and released statements instead, saying the proposal will be judged on its merits and will be publicly vetted.
The church's Center for Hope will also include an expo center, a 400 seat auditorium, dining café, a resource center and new restrooms. The center will continue provide outreach programs servicing homeless people, veterans, troubled youth and victims of domestic abuse.
The Council Budget chair says it's well within the constitution to provide money for social services.
"We don't give money to churches, but we give money to projects they have if it helps us solve a community problem and its open to all members of the public," said Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi. "If it's just an expansion of physical property of the church, then I don't think we could fund that."
That's the gray area that concerns critics. There's no specific breakdown showing how the city's $250,000 would be spent
New Hope has blurred the lines between Church and State before.
In 2014, it paid 775-thousand dollars to settle a lawsuit after paying low-rent to use public school facilities or years.