Portion of church vs. state lawsuit dismissed

A court fight is continuing over the rent churches pay to use public school facilities.

One lawsuit was dismissed last year, and today, a court ruling came down on a second lawsuit.

While Circuit Court judge Virginia Crandall’s ruling on a motion to dismiss the lawsuit came quickly, that ruling addressed only a portion of the entire lawsuit.

“We’re pleased with the judge’s ruling that dismissed most of the case,” said Erik Stanley, attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu.

“That’s what they said last time, too, and we are still here,” responded James Bickerton, attorney for the plaintiffs Mitch Kahle and Holly Huber.

The lawsuit alleges that One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu made illegal rental agreements with Kaimuki and Mililani High Schools respectively, which cost the Department of Education nearly $1 million in unpaid rent.

“The church has always wanted to avoid talking about it,” said Bickerton. “They didn’t tell the state the real number of hours they were using the facility.”

Judge Crandall dismissed the part of the suit involving One Love Ministries because it didn’t qualify under the state’s False Claims Act, since it was based on public information. (The ministry has since stopped renting from Kaimuki High School.)

According to Stanley, the part of the suit that’s moving forward deals with allegations that applications for special events weren’t filled out.

“We’re happy that the court dismissed what it did,” he said. “We think that when the allegations do come to light finally, that everything is going to be dismissed.”

“We start the discovery phase, where we actually get to question people about facts,” Bickerton said. He said subpoenas may start to be issued in a week’s time.

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