Hawaiian Atheists’ Lawsuit Alleges That Churches Have Deprived Public Schools of $5,600,000

Mitch Kahle, founder of the Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, has been a successful activist for a few years now:

Mitch Kahle

In 2010, he protested an invocation prayer in the Hawaii State Legislature and won a lawsuit after being roughed up and arrested by police for “disorderly conduct.”

Last year, after a public school partnered up with a local church to raise money for a Christian charity, he wrote a letter to the Department of Education and stopped the Constitutional violation.

This is a guy who knows how to stand up for his principles, even if they’re unpopular.

Now, along with his partner Holly Huber, he’s tackling his biggest case yet.

It involves churches that rent out worship space at public schools. Normally, that’s fine and legal, but Kahle and Huber have evidence that five churches have not paid fair rental price at public schools for the past six years, resulting in a loss of funds for the state of $5,600,000. The evidence that they were at the schools beyond contract hours includes pictures from the churches’ social media sites and their own websites. (There are actually 35 other churches violating the law, too, but these five are the biggest offenders.)

Their lawsuit calls out New Hope Oahu, New Hope Hawaii Kai, New Hope Kapo­lei, One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu as churches that underpaid the Department of Education by renting space for a certain amount of time and then staying much longer than the contracts allowed.

Plenty of churches rent space from public schools. That isn’t the issue. The allegation is the churches are intentionally filing false applications to get charged less.

“By not paying for what they use they are directly taking money from our states children,” said Jim Bickerton, plaintiff’s attorney.

“They’re there so long and they’re so cozy they just take a whole bunch of extra time, they come in on Saturday even though they’re only supposed to be there on Sunday,” said Mitch Kahle, plaintiff.

This isn’t just some trivial issue. One of the schools in question, Farrington High School, recently had a roof collapse. That’s an infrastructure problem that could have been fixed if they had the $3,200,000 owed to them by New Hope Oahu over the past six years. The church said they used the school’s facilities for only 7.5 hours a week. According to Kahle and Huber, they actually used it about 50 hours a week (from Friday to Sunday). So they were only paying for 15% of the time they were there.

In another case, at Kapolei Middle School, New Hope Kapolei church was using “as many as seven air-conditioned classrooms, two teachers’ lounges, grounds, and parking lots without payment of any rental fees or utilities charges over many years.” That’s nearly $350,000 in unpaid fees.

How are the churches getting away with it? In part, it’s because they offer other things to the school — like uniforms for the athletes. But Kahle’s lawyer says that’s not good enough:

“Now it’s very hard when someone has given some uniforms to the kids and turnaround and say hey you cheated on your application form. So it’s easier to let it go,” said Bickerton.

The churches deny any improper facility usage. They’re basically arguing we’re good for the community so why not just let everything else slide:

“The three New Hope Churches mentioned in the claims are members of the Hawaii District of Foursquare Churches. We can assure the public that our churches have always honored all agreements made with DOE agents for the use of public school facilities. On top of paying the rent agreed, we have also given voluntarily thousands of dollars to the schools we use to upgrade their facilities and equipment. We are committed to be a blessing to our community,” wrote Fernando Castillo, Hawaii District of Foursquare Churches Supervisor.

By the way, here’s another twist to the case: The state’s Board of Education chair Don Horner also happens to be a pastor in the New Hope church system. The executive pastor at New Hope Oahu asked Horner to lower the rental fees and get rid of the provision that only let you lease out space for five years. Guess what happened after that…?

Less than three weeks later, DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi announced that she had deleted the five-year rule from application forms.

Talk about a serious conflict-of-interest

If Kahle and Huber win their lawsuit, the churches could owe the state up to $16,800,000, three times the amount they’ve shortchanged the schools (that is, if they are found to have knowingly evaded the law).

For the legal junkies out there, this is a qui tam lawsuit. That means Kahle and Huber don’t have to have standing or prove they’re affected by the churches’ deception in order to bring about the lawsuit. (As opposed to, say, Jessica Ahlquist bringing a suit against her school because she was directly affected by a religious mural.) They’re trying to help out the government by recovering these lost fees, and a qui tam lawsuit lets them do it. If they win, they stand to gain anywhere from 15-30% of the proceeds as a sort of reward for helping the state recover the rest of the amount.

This lawsuit was actually filed back in March. Hawaii’s Attorney General David Louie had five months — during which time the lawsuit remained confidential — to decide whether the state wanted to join Kahle and Huber in their lawsuit. For now, Louie has chosen not to intervene, so Kahle and Huber will act on their own as agents of the state. Louie may choose to join them at a later date.

Now that Louie has passed on joining them in the lawsuit, the files are no longer confidential. So here’s an exclusive look at the key documents.

When I spoke to Kahle last night, he told me that he and Huber were inspired to look into their state’s schools’ relationships with churches after reading the New York Times reports about the Bronx Household of Faith and its (ultimately unsuccessful) challenge to meet in a public school.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    The “Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church” serve as a *fantastic* example for the rest of us.

    By looking for examples of church/state violations in our own communities/regions, and then thinking, strategizing, collecting documents, wisely using the court system and the media, we can start to chip away at the unearned special privileges that religions have in our society.

    I tip my hat to this group, and I encourage the rest of us to make similar efforts.

    • http://voxatheos.com/ VoxAtheos

      I was thinking the same thing while reading this article. I hope that people in communities all over the country will decide to look into their schools’ religious partnerships.

      The faithful will be getting nervous if we start double-checking their books, though. You know they hate it when we do it with the bible. :)

  • Charles Chambers

    Way to go Mitch! Hope you win!

  • corps_suk

    Sort of related I have a question for anyone here,
    There is a Fellowship of Christian Athletes club at my kids school. These are supposed to be student sponored, but there are two teachers who sponsor it, put up the flyers, and make all the announcements. In fact they are the ones who recruit new members each year. Is this ok?
    Also, they made T-shirts with the school logo and the the FCA logo (a cross of course) on the front and scripture on the back, no big deal right. However, these two teachers wear these shirts during regular school hours and during instruction…is that ok?

    Just wondering if anyone has insight into this…thanks ahead of time if you do.

    • C Peterson

      Generally, teachers can be sponsors for extracurricular religious groups, but if they’re doing much on school time, that’s a problem.

      I think the thing with the shirts might be a violation, though. I remember a similar issue not too long ago, and the confusion between the public school name/logo and the religious symbol crossed over into a First Amendment violation. Maybe somebody else can remember the specific case. I think it was discussed in this forum.

      • corps_suk

        Thanks,
        See I had read that teachers were not allowed to sponsor religious groups, only supervise them. They had to be student formed and sponsored.
        But yes, its the shirts that really get me…my kid has to read scripture on a public school teachers shirt?

        • Brian Westley

          I’d agree that’s almost certainly a violation, as is the teachers’ apparent being in charge of the group instead of students.

        • C Peterson

          There’s a fine line between “sponsorship” and “supervision”, and just what the words mean depends on how school policies are written.

          Suffice to say, the Fellowship of Christian Students is an exceptionally nasty organization, and has been implicated in a great many Constitutional violations. You are well advised to consider anything they do suspect.

          If you see any actions of these teachers (whether they are “sponsors” or “supervisors”) spilling over into school activities, or you perceive their actions as reflecting any school policy that appears to support or endorse Christianity, I think you are in a good position to protest this through whatever channels the school and district make available.

        • Erp

          Teachers when acting as private citizens can be involved in religion as much as they want (e.g., run their church’s Wednesday night youth group even if it rents one of the school’s classrooms). However when acting as government employees they are restricted by the establishment clause.

          For some schools ‘teacher sponsors’ may be required for all school clubs but the actions permitted to the ‘sponsors’ are more limited for religious (or political) clubs (in return it seems under the Equal Access act the schools must provide a supervisor if a number of students want the club and school rules require a supervisor). The conservatives have found that this means they can’t have schools ban gay/straight alliance clubs. (Schools do have the option of banning all non-curricula clubs).

    • Michael W Busch

      Also, they made T-shirts with the school logo and the the FCA logo (a
      cross of course) on the front and scripture on the back, no big deal
      right. However, these two teachers wear these shirts during regular
      school hours and during instruction…is that ok?

      That part isn’t okay – it goes beyond personal expression and into using their government-sponsored forum to promote their particular religion. Having teachers who sponsor a religious student group on their own time seems more arguable, but I am not a lawyer.

  • Rob McClain

    There are churches renting space from my local school and recreation center. Short of joining the church to spy on them, how do I gather the data on compliance?

    • Stev84

      Blackmail one of the members to do the spying for you ;)

    • Michael W Busch

      In this case, some of the data gathering was apparently as simple as checking the groups’ Facebook pages.

    • mark!

      check their Facebook pages and stuff for evidence that they’re there after hours, and generally all legal records, such as applications to rent out a space would be available in your county’s records office. I would ask someone at your county’s municipal court where that would be, because i think they’re required by law to tell you, seeing as that’s all legally required to be public knowledge.

    • delizabeth3
  • DougI

    For every dollar a church doesn’t pay in taxes or rent that’s a dollar taking out of our pocket. I don’t think anyone will be surprised when the churches lie about not knowing they weren’t paying rent. If it’s one thing the religious business has learned well, it’s to lie with a smile.

    • newavocation

      Ya, but they pray for our schools.

      • Jonzn Jacob

        Oh, we’ll return the favor.

    • the moother

      Lying and stealing are the modus operandi of religion.

  • CommentMaker

    “They’re trying to help out the government by recovering these lost fees, and a qui tam lawsuit lets them do it.”

    No, no, no! They’re trying to hurt the churches and cloaking themselves with the mask of legalism. Every member of those churches pay school taxes in some form or another and should have the freedom of hanging around the building. No church anywhere meets 50 hours a week. There was no mention of any other organizations that rent the buildings, just churches. There IS an agenda here.

    • skeptical_inquirer

      Hey, I pay taxes too and if I rent something out, I better pay the right amount. We’re actually all subsidizing church stuff because they DON’T PAY taxes, which is plain ridiculous.

      This whole “church can do no wrong” is nonsense. Being a penny-pinching hypocrite is a good reason why people roll their eyes at institutions claiming they’re good and holy.

      • CommentMaker

        If you are a charity that does charity in the name of anything you don’t have to pay taxes anyway. Atheist have the same opportunity. But you do have to live off of donations. That is good ol America.

        It was said, “According to Kahle and Huber, they actually used it about 50 hours a week (from Friday to Sunday).”

        Keep in mind that the school building is closed down and they were simply setting up and left. They are trying to prove they were using it. This lawsuit is only for the purpose of hate toward Christianity. So what if the church, or anyone, used the building over time. This is petty on the part of atheist. Talking about a holier than thou mentality. The church has nothing on ya’ll.

        • Michael W Busch

          Keep in mind that the school building is closed down and they were simply setting up and left.

          No, they aren’t “simply setting up and leaving”. They’re using the furniture, the bathrooms, the floors, the electricity, the air conditioning, and so on while they’re there. That goes into the upkeep costs for the building, and also into some amount of salary (more hours for janitorial and security personnel). That’s why outside groups using public school property are required to pay for renting it.

          They are trying to prove they were using it.

          No. That is not in dispute. What is disputed is that the churches did not pay for all of the time that they were there.

          This lawsuit is only for the purpose of hate toward Christianity.

          No. It is for the purpose of ensuring that the public schools are not being exploited to promote a particular religious agenda. If this were a Muslim group, or a Hindu group, or a Buddhist group, etc., that had not been paying its rent, the lawsuit would be almost identical and equally justified. And the same would apply to a group advocating irreligion over religion – an underpaying atheist group would be liable too.

          Dismantling the privileged social position of Christianity is not hate. It is having a secular society.

          And by comparison to the school budget, $5.6 million is not petty cash.

          • CommentMaker

            I simply disagree with you. I do not know these churches, but if they do not have a building, they may be poor. Our government and school districts waste so much that this is the tip of a needle they you are trying to expose in a lawsuit. By the way, all you need to do is go to the school district and complain. Then let them handle it. You are petty.

            • corps_suk

              BY being the “tip of the needle” you are agreeing then that this a good place to start. Thanks.

            • Michael W Busch

              I do not know these churches, but if they do not have a building, they may be poor.

              Oddly enough, “subsidizing particular religious organizations” is not something that the government is allowed to do – regardless of the financial situation of the group concerned.

              Our government and school districts waste so much that this is the tip of a needle

              Saying “you waste a lot of money, so you shouldn’t care about this $5.6 million” is not a defense – especially since $5.6 million is on the level of 1% of the annual budget of the primary and secondary school system (if I skimmed the Department of Education’s budget sheet correctly).

              By the way, all you need to do is go to the school district and complain. Then let them handle it. You are petty.

              In this case, members of the school board administration are apparently complicit in the non-payment – as Hemant has explained. So “let them handle it” is manifestly inadequate. And I personally don’t need to do anything. Kahle and company have got this.

            • skeptical_inquirer

              Churches’ waste and budgets aren’t transparent. There are tons of churches that waste money on having their leaders lead the good life and hush money for all sorts of lawsuits.

              And I don’t see churches as deserving the name charities, at least not automatically. Who knows what real percentages actually goes to help people and not goes into a deep rabbit hole of ‘administrative expenses’ and other sketchy what not. I wouldn’t like it if I found out a secular charity was trying to cheat taxpayers either, which is why I’m also against donating to any charity that calls you over the phone because they’re frauds, secular or not.

              And frankly the whole “but they do it too” argument actually hurts you because frankly, it’s YOUR guys who do the whole ‘holier than thou’ nonsense.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              You just argued that because waste occurs, theft is okay. Jesus apparently didn’t have much impact on your life. You are corrupt. Petty, also.

              • CommentMaker

                Petty? Why don’t you go after the real waste. There is more waste in so many other areas of school districts that this is a drop in the bucket. I think you are simply going after churches.

                • Michael W Busch

                  If you can demonstrate particular areas of waste in a school system, and how said waste may be remedied, then do so. Again, claiming “you’re wasting so much money that you should entirely ignore 1% (or 0.1%) of your budget” is not a valid argument. Although certainly bigger instances of waste merit greater attention, lesser instances don’t get passed over entirely. Nor does fraud.

                • Esquilax

                  You keep trying to minimize this: is several million dollars really that much of a non-issue for you, or are you just willing to give churches a pass on anything? Besides, since when is “things are even worse than this lawsuit is making it out to be” a legitimate reason to not pursue action where it can be done?

                • CommentMaker

                  They spend more on toilet paper and cleaning up after vandals that this small amount. Your numbers are inflated to have effect, too. That is the way it is done by you guys. It is in every comment you spew at me and other Christians.

                • skeptical_inquirer

                  If someone steals $20 from you and someone else steals $2000 from you, I still think you’d be mad at the guy who stole $20 from you. Maybe not AS mad but you’d still be mad.

                • CommentMaker

                  Biblical values and principles tell me different. If I am fooled it is on me. It just happens that God’s principles allow me to see through money schemes.

                • Michael W Busch

                  If I am fooled it is on me.

                  Way to blame the victim. Don’t do that.

                  It just happens that God’s principles allow me to see through money schemes

                  No. Your ability to reason, your prior experience, and your knowledge of the prior experience of others are what do that. You would have to prove the existence of a very specific god to say that the heuristics you use are “God’s principles”.

                • Michael W Busch

                  They spend more on toilet paper and cleaning up after vandals that this small amount.

                  Citation Needed (and again, $5.6 million is not petty cash). Do you have the school’s janitorial budget available to support that statement? If not, don’t make it. And, also again, that there are other instances of waste (and toilet paper and cleaning are not waste) does not excuse any other instance of waste or any instance of fraud.

                  Your numbers are inflated to have effect, too.

                  Read the complaint. As long as the time numbers are accurate, then the underpayment is as stated.

                • Esquilax

                  Yes, but there’s a bit of a difference: when the schools spend money on toilet paper and cleaning… they get the benefit of having toilet paper and clean environments. When the church doesn’t pay the correct rent, nobody benefits but the church. Can you think of a single other scenario where you would be okay with a private organization bilking a government one out of millions of dollars through dishonest means? Just one?

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  You just argued, “Why bother to prosecute rapists when murder cases are still open?” Good job.

                  What is this “You”? I donate to two local church food banks. Your bigotry and privilege have made you corrupt, petty, and presumptuous, all in Jesus’s name.

                • skeptical_inquirer

                  Why not go after all the waste? I think it’s stupid to try to shield one by playing a version of three card monty and trying to make everybody choose the other shell when the correct answer is to go after any waste that occurs even if done by something you favor.

                  Don’t you hate crap like nepotism and corporate cronies where people make business deals because they go golfing together? Then you need to stop making excuses for something you like even when something you like is doing something wrong. Have the church face the music like any other organization.

                • CommentMaker

                  If the government does not bill the church you should attack the government. They will either tell you to move on or deal with it.

                • Michael W Busch

                  The administrators concerned are named in the complaint. The decision in the case will presumably include recommendations for consequences of their actions.

                  And “the government” is not a single entity. It is an organization made up of people, who are individually responsible for actions.

            • Stev84

              Oh BS. They aren’t poor. One of them is a church that’s present in several locations. They probably have millions, like so many American churches.

              • CommentMaker

                Here is a prime example of the low information viewer.

                Can you give evidence? Give me each location of the other churches. Millions? Show me their budgets. EVIDENCE as you atheist demand! But, since many here think I am holier than thou, I won’t demand it since I am really a good guy.

                • Michael W Busch

                  Google is your friend, as are the links that Hemant provided above. And no, not asking for evidence does not make you “really a good guy”.

                • SabsDkPrncs

                  Churches don’t have to publish budgets, unlike other tax-exempt organizations, so showing you is hardly possible. But Christians having to follow the same rules and regulations as secular charities would violate their right to practice religion freely, right?

                • CommentMaker

                  Churches publish their budgets once a month. They don’t have to but it shows where the money is going and the leadership is trusted more this way.

                  It is the people renting the facility who are responsible for the agreements they negotiate. This was a negotiated agreement.

                • Michael W Busch

                  Churches publish their budgets once a month

                  You are wrong. Some churches do this. Many do not. And some make quite a point of telling no one exactly where the money is – the Vatican Bank is perhaps the most notorious in this respect, with its history of being used for money laundering.

                  Your ignorance is showing.

                • SabsDkPrncs

                  I think you mean some churches post their budget once a month, and since there’s zero outside oversight or accountability, the only basis one can trust those numbers on is faith, not facts or reality.

                • CommentMaker

                  Atheistic reasoning may come to this conclusion. Audits and accountability do occur. Faults are found and corrected. There will be some who cross the line. Those are the one’s who have allowed the chain of command to be set up incorrectly. Just like you are allowed to file your income tax without audits. You are still accountable for what you submit and may be audited. Charities do get audited.

                • SabsDkPrncs
                • CommentMaker

                  I have never heard of one being audited, however, it is coming. To be clear, the IRS can do it if they want to, it is just on hold.

                • ~SoACTing

                  Nice swipe from Rush Limbaugh… “low information voter.” Any other lines you care to steal from him while you’re here??

                  ~ SoACTing

                • CommentMaker

                  Just using phrases you can understand. BTW, Rush gives all his listeners permission to use what he has made famous.

                • Jeff

                  First, their budget, or location of their churches, or the property values, or any other matter, is irrelevant. They were under a legal, contractual obligation. That is why there is a lawsuit. It does not really matter if this was a church, the Boy Scouts, the local Gay Pride group, or any other non-school entity. The legal contract states what lease costs were, times, etc. The argument is straight-forward: Did they violate the contract that was set forth and agreed too? This is NOT a religious issue, so the “goodness” of the group has no bearing. At an even deeper level, if the churches (regarded as a legal entity, not a religious group) worked with members of the governmental board (DOE) to obtain rates that were not provided to any other leasee, that is conspiracy. Because it is a governmental body, because it involved public funds, it could easily fall under the Federal RICO statutes. Again, directed specifically at CommentMaker, all of this has NOTHING to do with any of your arguments. It is strictly contract law, and it will be reviewed to see if the contract is in violation. Just as if it were a Satanic group, Gay group, Evangelical group, or local underwater basket-weaving group. So, rather than trying to defend your argument through insult (“low information voter”), maybe you should refer to pertaining to the actual facts viewers, as none of your argument pertains to the legal facts.

                • CommentMaker

                  The rent was negotiated. How do you know the school simply would have done favors for the other groups. You wouldn’t say so unless it was a church. That is the problem I have with this.

                • Jeff

                  Well, the “doing favors” with public money is illegal. Again, it does not matter WHO the leasee was. Because it is public property (a public school), opportunity must be granted to all valid applicants equally. Cost of the lease must be equal also. Granting a “favor” is illegal. That is conspiracy. again, I’m sorry you have a problem with it, but stick to FACT. The filing indicates that they broke the law. Whether it was the school in granting “favored status” or by failing to obtain payment for the lease because it was a church, or the church for failing to fulfill it’s legal requirements of the contract. Period. A legally binding contract was issued that required a set payment for use of a public facility. The contract was not fulfilled. That is the entire legal argument. There is no difference whether a church is involved or the PTA had signed the lease.

              • Michael W Busch

                I can’t speak to their detailed balance sheets, but Google informs me:

                1. New Hope Oahu has recently acquired their new “New Hope Ministry Center” – and so will no longer be making use of the high school. The lawsuit is that they underpaid for the use they did make of the space; so presumably at least some of the underpaid rent went into their building.

                2. New Hope Kapolei has a property in Waihapu.

                3. All of the New Hope groups encourage their members to donate 10% of gross income to the group.

                4. One Love Ministries is currently sponsoring something claiming to describe “God’s ways of handling money”, charging $100 per attendee.

                • CommentMaker

                  1. Were invoices unpaid?

                  2. Property and no building? How expensive is it in Hawaii?

                  3. The Bible does mention the tithe, and then offerings. I do that. It is not your money anyway.

                  4. Yes, it may be an organization coming over from the mainland. Part of the fee could be toward getting them there. Dave Ramsey’s program is $90 and last for 13 weeks. Personally, if the preacher doesn’t know how to teach his people how to handle money he does not need to be running a church.

                • Michael W Busch

                  1: The complaint is that they underpaid for the time and space that they used – using more than was covered by the invoices they were issued. Did you read what Hemant wrote or not?

                  2: They have part of a building. I do not have the real estate prices / rental rates available – because, again, they are not required to disclose that information.

                  3. What the Bible says is irrelevant here. What matters is that, given people are actually tithing, all of the groups concerned will have quite considerable incomes to cover expenses (unless their membership is low). And your money is your money – money is a human invention, which we created as a convenient way of allocating resources across the economy, and ownership is a fundamental aspect of that convention.

                  4. That also is irrelevant. That the group is apparently able to raise fairly large sums for expenses is what matters. And, no, a preacher should not be teaching people how to handle money – unless said preacher happens to be independently qualified to give financial advice. Once again, there are no “God’s ways of handling money” – there are only human ways of handling money, since money is a human invention.

                  Edit:

                  And, as I said before, the requirement that the government not violate church-state separation by sponsoring specific religious groups is independent of the finances of the groups concerned. I looked up the groups involved in this case to illustrate that your mistakes are several levels deep. And since I am beginning to repeat myself, I am done.

            • Amor DeCosmos

              I simply disagree with you.

              Typical Christian attitude of denying the facts.

              Tell me, do you really believe that all people are created equal, or do you really believe that Christians deserve special priviledges in our society?

              • CommentMaker

                You simply disagree with me, too. Do I have the same privilege?

                Looks to me that the church negotiated with the school and the school made adjustments to the agreement. We will see how this frivolous lawsuit ends.

                • Michael W Busch

                  No. A member of a religious group abused his position to get said group a bunch of stuff for free. This is anything but frivolous.

                • Brian Westley

                  Churches that rented school facilities honestly (that is, paid the going rate and only used what rooms they paid for, for the amount of time paid for) have absolutely nothing to fear from this lawsuit or any subsequent audits.

                  So who are you defending?

                • phantomreader42

                  He is defending liars and thieves, as always.

                • FaithIsGlorifiedDelusion

                  You seem to be very emotionally invested in defending this said church. What’s your stake in all of this?

                • CommentMaker

                  I simply see an extreme focus by the atheist to disrupt churches by watching them so close. It is like atheist have become the Westboro Baptist Church.

                • skeptical_inquirer

                  I see an extreme focus by religionists to hush things up done by churches to be pretty disturbing. It is like . . . everyday real life, actually.

                • CommentMaker

                  You will not win legally. Get use to it.

                • Michael W Busch

                  Actually, the case appears quite clearly in favor of the plaintiffs – this is a blatant violation of separation of church and state.

                  But I do not have full information on the case, and am not a lawyer or a judge, so my opinions are not to be given undue weight.

                • FaithIsGlorifiedDelusion

                  You’re a troll. Goodbye.

                • Michael W Busch

                  No. Requiring people to pay for the use of a building is not “an extreme focus to disrupt churches”. As has been explained, the same standard would apply for any other private group doing something that the school does not have a normal interest in promoting.

                  And no, combating fraud is not at all equivalent to going around yelling at everyone that god hates them.

                • comment_maker

                  So I’m to accept what Mitch Kahle, someone with his own personal agenda, says as fact? What happens when he is proven to be frivolous and this a petty lawsuit? I’m pretty sure with that much money at stake our greedy government would be holding these churches accountable. And I guess the finders fee that he gets to keeps has nothing to do with him filing this petty lawsuit?!

                • ~SoACTing

                  To my knowledge, in order to amend a written, signed contract, it has to be done in writing. A verbal agreement after the fact won’t work.

                  ~ SoACTing

            • katiehippie

              If they are poor, they shouldn’t be renting out expensive facilities.

              • CommentMaker

                They didn’t have a building. That is what you do as you grow your congregation.

            • Jonzn Jacob

              I am poor as well.
              Could you let them rent the schools free for me?

              I’ll pay an hour’s rent a week. Let me use it for around 20 hours in the weekends.

              What say?

              • CommentMaker

                I’m not the one to negotiate with. If you are as good a negotiator as this group, have at it. The use of school property for any group should be free, as long as the property is left in original condition. If it is a mess, clean it up and that is the fee for their next use of the building or send them a bill. Simple.

                • allein

                  School taxes are for educating students and maintaining facilities for that purpose. Just because schools are maintained by tax money doesn’t mean that anyone and everyone should be able to hang around (as you wrote in an earlier comment) the building or use it for any purpose they wish. If the school has a policy for renting out space in the facility, then all groups, no matter their purpose, should pay the same fees for that use. If a church is using the building on a day when the building is not normally open, then there are extra costs for utilities, etc., and tax money should not be paying for that, whether for a church or any other private group.

                • CommentMaker

                  If you don’t win, will you admit defeat?

                • allein

                  Win what? I don’t even live in Hawaii.

                • Michael W Busch

                  School taxes are for educating students and maintaining facilities for that purpose.

                  There are other purposes school properties are used for without charges to the groups concerned. These are things that the government has a legitimate interest in promoting – public health (exercise programs, vaccination clinics, breakfast and lunch for at least some students), disaster and accident preparedness, informal educational events, etc., which are often being paid for by portions of people’s taxes anyway.

                  But the government is specifically prohibited from sponsoring any particular religion, or religion over irreligion, or irreligion over religion, so that does not apply here.

        • Parse

          Keep in mind that the school building is closed down and they were simply setting up and left.

          And while those spaces are set up and left, nobody else can use them. Having exclusive access to something is using it, even if you aren’t in the building at the time.

          • CommentMaker

            That’s defective reasoning and logic. A school has many areas in the building that can be used and rented. The main thing here is that no one rents the school building anyway. This church has negotiated a week to week use of the facility. Anyone could have come in and rented the building and the church would have had to meet somewhere else. That would have been a better sucker-punch-in-the-face that the atheist could have done in this case.

    • Michael W Busch

      There was no mention of any other organizations that rent the buildings, just churches. There IS an agenda here.

      Yes, because the churches are the ones that are not paying for using the space – and who have a serious conflict of interest in the form of Don Horner.

      Notice that no-one is objecting to the churches renting space. The objection is to the churches not paying for using the facilities.

      • CommentMaker

        Still petty.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Thanks for admitting that when proven wrong, you just turn pissy and stamp your foot, but we already knew that.

          • CommentMaker

            Been playing twister too much, haven’t you. I just think you like to be talked to like you talk to me.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              “Talked to like you talk to me”… Oh, you mean, would I like you to use truth, fact, and a basic knowledge of the relevant arguments as your primary debate tools, instead of deceit, narcissism and privilege? Yes, please, I would like that.

              Sorry, Pissums, but the shoe fit you quite nicely. Your lack of English reading comprehension doesn’t change that.

              Say, did you ever consider that when you claimed over and over again that you were being “civil” and “nice” and “rational”, and a dozen people explained to you how you were being no such things, with examples, that it was a sign that you should do some reflection?

              No?

              Shocker.

        • Michael W Busch

          You have not provided any evidence in support of that assertion. Again – it is anything but petty to require a strictly secular government that endorses neither religion nor irreligion.

          • CommentMaker

            All I ever hear from atheist is “where is the evidence”. I have provided it in written form and you guys seem to want to define everything by your way of thinking. Your way of thinking is only one part of the whole. But you are bigoted in that line of thinking.

            • Michael W Busch

              Really? What evidence have you provided here that has not been shown to be complete nonsense or irrelevant?

              • Amor DeCosmos

                I too am eagerly waiting to see the proof that CommentMaker has for all of us. I mean, all of us atheists would follow Jesus if given irrefutable proof of God’s existence.

                We’re waiting CommentMaker. Remember “The Bible says…” or “I don’t understand… so God” are not acceptable answers.

                So where is this proof?
                *crickets*
                Yeah, I thought so.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              We’ll just add “bigoted” to the already quite extensive list of words that don’t mean what you demand that they mean.

            • katiehippie

              Writing something here that you believe is true isn’t ‘providing evidence in written form’

              • CommentMaker

                I am using reasoning and logic. This is a focused hate against a church group. It is obvious because it was started and funded by atheist. No one else cares. That logic should tell you something.

                • phantomreader42

                  So, in your delusions, expecting a church to pay their bills and obey the law is “focused hate”, but your constant libel is perfectly fine. What color is the sky on your planet?

                • CommentMaker

                  They paid the invoices they were sent. No unpaid invoices exist. Not there fault if the school did not do their job.

                • Michael W Busch

                  Given that they knowingly over-used the space as compared to what was in the invoice, they committed fraud. The administrator issuing an inaccurate invoice is a separate but related problem.

                • CommentMaker

                  The color of my sky is that you are an idiot. I am not delusional.

                • Michael W Busch

                  You may not be delusional (that word has a specific meaning that has not yet been shown to apply). But nor is phantomreader42 an idiot. Someone disagreeing with you does not mean they are lacking in intelligence (and I am being charitable by not calling you on the other problems with your bigoted speech).

                  Also: @phantomreader42:disqus : CommentMaker is being obnoxious and offensively wrong, but that’s not technically libel – that requires damages to have been done.

                • phantomreader42

                  He’s speaking with knowing falsity and reckless disregard for the truth, often accusing innocent people of crimes and equating them to terrorists.

                • Michael W Busch

                  Yes. But that by itself is not libel. It is merely wrong, obnoxious, offensive, and – in CommentMaker’s particular form – a striking example of the contortions that can happen when a privileged group finds its privilege being challenged.

                • allein

                  Off topic, but why is it that some people who seem to have a perfectly decent grasp of the rules of English grammar have such a hard time with the plural of the word “atheist”? I see Christian commenters do this a lot. Is it deliberate? I don’t get it. I really don’t.

                • CommentMaker

                  Doesn’t matter. It says what it says. Get over it.

                • allein

                  It’s annoying and it makes you sound uneducated.

                • CommentMaker

                  You only wish I was only uneducated. You fear me.

                • allein

                  I don’t even know who you are except a fake name on the internet. Why would I fear you?

                • Antinomian

                  It’s his Rat Fink avatar that is so fearsome.

                • allein

                  Is that what that is? Seems fitting…

                • Michael W Busch

                  No. It was started by people who object to government sponsorship of religion. That is an overlapping but non-identical set to the set of atheists. Plenty of other people care about this. Nor does the number of people that care about a problem determine if the problem is serious or not.

                  And you still haven’t provided any relevant evidence for your statements.

            • Carmelita Spats

              Stop it. Stop it now. Just STOP. Mister, I don’t know where you get off comin’ around here to fuss at these fine unsaved folks but I’ve been workin’ this mission field for MONTHS and this pile of heathens is ALL MINE so you can just cram yourself and your Zippo lighter into your tiny scooter and haul ass one block down to proselytize incorrigible Muslims over at Salami City
              .

              What are you? Catho-lick? Mormon? Jee-hovy Witness? Unitarian? Presby-terian? Metho-dist? E-pisky-pol? Do you belong to one of them churches that allows its women to preach? Skirt-wearin’ short haired women disguised as men of God? Maybe you just tip-toe into a Bible-believing church on EASTER SUNDAY thinking that everything is a-ok with Jesus and that you can spend the rest of the year giggling at God’s expense. Have you ever been arrested for trespassing, breaking and entering, into God’s Holy House? Do you have demons in your colon? If you are trying to recruit atheists into your FAKE Christian cult, you might as well dig a hole all the way down to the pit of HELL and holler, “Hey Lucifer, mind if I recruit atheists in your honor?” There are two reasons why a writer would end a sentence with the word “stop” written entirely in capital letters STOP. The first is if the writer were writing a telegram, a coded message sent through an electric wire, STOP. It is the code for the end of a sentence, STOP. The second reason is to warn atheists that what they are reading is FAKE Christianity, like yours, so if they have begun reading it, the best thing to do would be to stop STOP. Praise!

              • CommentMaker

                You’re funny. You are one of the status quo atheist that thinks your silly way of mocking religion affects me or any Christian. We are use to it by now. Sounds like you have some knowledge of some ways churches structure their churches. That’s fine. You hate religion and do not want any atheist here to have a thought of their own. Most of us do not protect our members from you like that. If they are not firm in their faith there is nothing we can do to stop them. You should be as courteous to your flock.

                • Michael W Busch

                  Your language is wrong. You don’t “protect” people by preventing them from learning about something.

                  And while Carmelita may hate religion, her prior statements made here show that your statement that “she does not want any atheist here to have a thought of their own” to be entirely false.

                  And my prior statements here will show you that I disagree with Carmelita about a large number of things. The commentators here are many things, but a “flock” is not one of them – not in the sense of a congregation, nor in the sense of a group following an authoritarian leader, nor in the sense of an emergent pattern of motion of a group of animals.

        • Amor DeCosmos

          Wish I lived in your fantasy land where 5.6 million dollars in unpaid rent is petty.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            Seriously. I’ve seen a county court plan ahead to spend most of a day hearing a case over unpaid rent totaling less than one-one thousandth of that amount. Commentmaker’s privilege and bigotry have made him innumerate as well as unreasoning.

    • phantomreader42

      So, you think it’s okay for churches to take things without paying for them. Isn’t that imaginary god of yours supposed to have some sort of problem with stealing?

    • rtanen

      Every member of my hypothetical book club, and every family on the block pays school taxes. Does that mean I can host club meetings there every week when school is not in session, or that my neighbors can hold family reunions there as long as they donate money that is still less than the rent? No! Even our local nonprofits, like the Friends of the Library, must still rent the space normally, as would any other group. The church/mosque/synagogue/temple/congregation does not get special privileges.

      • CommentMaker

        Maybe this lawsuit will produce the modified signed contract along with the unpaid invoices and we will all be enlightened. If they cannot produce both, the church is not liable.

        • TCC

          The modified signed contract? Wouldn’t that demonstrate that the contract had been amended to suit the church’s request, thereby negating the suit itself? Why would the plaintiffs even assume that such a document exists?

          And the “unpaid invoices” bit is quite irrelevant, since the nature of the suit is to help the government recover the money that they were actually owed. It’s been a few years since I studied contract law, but I don’t believe that financial obligations are waived if not invoiced when the fees and conditions of use are agreed upon beforehand.

        • Michael W Busch

          The church is liable if they are found to have used the space beyond the allocations in the invoices that they were sent. Then their liability will be assessed determined by the amount of excess use that there was, nominally at the standard rate for use multiplied by the constant factor applied to compute damages but at the discretion of the authorities handing the case.

          The administrators knowingly sending out wrong invoices and abusing their positions by doing so for their friends will be separately responsible for that.

  • CommentMaker

    I’ll be back around 7:00 CT.

    • Glasofruix

      Please don’t or bring some facts with you this time.

      • CommentMaker

        Ya’ll don’t believe in facts. You believe in atheist facts. There is a difference.

        • Michael W Busch

          No. There isn’t. Facts have no beliefs, not being persons.

    • Compuholic

      Yay, lucky us. We can hardly wait…

    • FaithIsGlorifiedDelusion

      Nobody cares.

      • CommentMaker

        Yea, that’s right. But I had 45 responses.

        • FaithIsGlorifiedDelusion

          Trolls love being fed.

          • Michael W Busch

            It is a good idea to not let wrong ideas stand unchallenged. So feed the trolls until they can eat no more.

        • allein

          Some of us are bored.

        • Michael W Busch

          45 responses explaining how what you have said is wrong. This should encourage you to go rethink your opinions (the exact number is irrelevant – the explanations are what matters).

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Gotta upvote this. It’s at least as decent as telling someone that they don’t want to go in the bathroom right after you.

  • Mick

    My prediction: The judges will say that everybody acted in ‘good faith’ so it would be unfair to hand out punishments at this stage – but future breaches will be frowned upon.

  • Oahu Ha’ole

    I hope the best for that couple. I grew up in Hawaii, and can attest that there are just as many violent Christian soldiers there as any county in the Southern US. They are absolutely correct in their lawsuit, but they are kicking a hornets nest.

  • Nichelle Wrenn

    I was stationed in Hawaii and volunteered at some of their pubic schools, I know first hand that most of the schools are not doing too well financially: they need all the money they can get. What better way than money that is owed to them anyway? I met Mitch in the Hawaii Secular society and aside from never letting us forget he was arrested he’s a pretty good ,if stubborn, guy, which will serve him well in our justice system. I wish him the best of luck; but even more I wish the kids of the Hawaii public school system get THEIR money.

    • Mairianna

      I met them a few years ago at the FFRF convention. They were uber (yeah…so what that I don’t know how to insert the umlat?) friendly and inspiring! I’ve driven by a local high school in a neighboring city that also serves as a “church” on Sunday….I just may have to investigate that further!

  • jolly

    This is disturbing! The DOE doesn’t know what is owed to them and has not filed suit themselves but these atheists do? Major failure on the part of the DOE? Not. This doesn’t even make sense outside the context of prejudice dressed up in the pseudonym of separation.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      The DOE doesn’t magically know when people are lying, and it’s the responsibility of good citizens to support good government, such as public education? The Devil you say!

      Jolly, thanks for admitting that you have no morals and are only too happy to libel people in order to protect thieves. Jesus loves you for your projected bigotry.

  • vanessa

    Obviously there is an agenda here, sounds to me like a frivolous, lawsuit. What a waste of money and time. I really hope the lawsuit is tossed out… what a sad, miserable man who has nothing better to do than spread his own agenda, just because he hates Christians!

    • Isaac

      No, he and a lot of others hate religious privilege.

  • UWIR

    According to Wikipedia, qui tam lawsuits can’t be based on evidence that is public knowledge, and it certainly seems to me that Facebook posts count as public knowledge. How are they getting around that? And can qui tam be used against other misappropriations? For instance, there are schools that are taking federal money to teach abstinence-only courses, and are teaching blatant lies in these courses. Surely, in taking federal money, they are implicitly representing that they will teach true facts, and are therefore fraudulently taking federal money.

  • Chris Camarillo

    “They’re basically arguing we’re good for the community so why not just let everything else slide”

    What are you talking about? The bolded part of the quote you provide contradicts your editorialization.

    “We can assure the public that our churches have ALWAYS HONORED ALL AGREEMENTS made with DOE agents for the use of public school facilities. ON TOP OF PAYING THE RENT AGREED, we have ALSO given voluntarily thousands of dollars to the schools we use to upgrade their facilities and equipment. We are committed to be a blessing to our community.”
    ON TOP OF. Meaning they are claiming they’ve done all of this community work in addition to paying their rent. So, the church is not saying what you claim above.

  • karma

    The First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Atheism in the USA is protected under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. In August 2005, in a case where a prison inmate was blocked by prison officials from creating an inmate group to study and discuss atheism, the court ruled this violated the inmate’s rights under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed previous Supreme Court precedent by ruling atheism be afforded equal protection with religions under the 1st amendment.

    There are also online churches that have been created by atheists to secure legal rights, to ordain atheist clergy to hold ceremonies, as well as for parody, education, and advocacy.

    So why are some of us pushing so hard to establish Atheism as America’s national religion? That would make us no better then those other religious nut job hypocrites.

    Remember there is not any constitutional right that anyone has, that guarantees them NOT to be OFFENDED, otherwise we might as well just junk the whole Bill of Rights and institute mob rule.

  • karma

    Hypocrisy alert!!!

    The state’s Board of Education chair Don Horner being pastor in the New Hope church system is a conflict of interest, but Kahle and Huber’s 15-30% cut of the $16,800,000 of the state’s lawsuit proceeds if they win isn’t.

    Did anyone from the schools ever talk to the churches about going
    over their time and ask them to pay the difference owed?

    Are Kahle and Huber going after any other organizations (i.e. non religious
    ones) for going over their allotted rental time with the schools?

    Because it is never about the money…… :-)

  • karma

    “According to Kahle and Huber, they
    actually used it about 50 hours a week (from Friday to
    Sunday).”

    Hmmm….. 3 days = 72 hours, 72 hours minus 50 hours = 22 hours remaining. School is a bout 6 hours long and I seriously doubt that they were using it before school started on Friday morning….so no use before 2pm on Friday….22 hours minus 14 hours = 6 hours remaining…. that gives the staff about 2 hours a
    night (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) for sleep or what ever, when the
    school is not being used by the church.

    50 hours in 3 days (one of which is a school day)….come on…really? Whats next Kahle and Huber going to tell us the planet is only 10,000 years old and made in 7 days. :-)

    Maybe I should change my name from karma to “Devil’s Advocate” or “Really Mean Guy That Uses Logic” if you are offended by the word “Devil”.

  • Combat Warrior

    We have a problem with separation of church and state! If you’re an American, you are part of a religious group! Our U.S. Constitution was written by our 4 fathers who believed in God. Look at the beginning paragraphs of the Const., and look at your
    currency. Do you not see it? What the meaning of separation of government and
    church was; if you belong to a church. Americans will not interfere. In the same token, under equality of law, you should respect those who are religious! Many people who died in our Great Wars, to include Republic of South Vietnam, are today
    lying in a National Cemetery missing the sign of a Cross! This is wrong, and our
    legal system must argue competently so everyone is treated equally? Note: An
    atheist is also a religion! Ref.: U.S. 7th Cir. Ct. of appeals Decision 2005.

    • dm_apostate

      The Constitution is a secular document making no mention of god or Christianity. It begins with “We the People”. The only references to religion are exclusionary. The very first sentence of the Bill of Rights mandates that the state be secular: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This provision, known as the Establishment Clause, “build[s] a wall of separation between church and State.”

      “In God we trust” was forced upon us as the official motto of the United States in 1956 during the Christian anti-communist fever of McCarthyism replacing “E pluribus unum” or “From One Many” Before that “Mind Your Business” was our official motto. “In God We Trust” is inaccurate and printing it on our money is unconstitutional. Why not be honest and say, “In God some trust?”

      Arlington has no shortage of crosses, you are misinformed. The final case you quote is more about semantics. This case involved an atheist inmate (which by the way are less than one percent of the American prison inmate population) the court said, ” for purposes of the First Amendment, is distinct from a “way of life,” even if that way of life is inspired by philosophical beliefs or other secular concerns.” and “A religion need not be based on a belief in the existence of a supreme being.” It’s about categorizing a belief system, different from a traditional religion that you are suggesting.

  • Ms.T

    What drives you? What happen to “get the facts” people? You run with what you hear and read without taking time to listen with a discerning heart. I totally rebuke this spirit in Jesus name!! Thank you Lord for forgiving these people for they know not what they do.. Amen..

    • dm_apostate

      Your pretend god may forgive pastor Wayne and his co-conspirators, but the taxpayers want their money to go back to the public schools.

  • Crabs

    poor Kahle no goals and dreams in life… just another crab in a bucket trying to pull people to his level (lower than a preganant ant)

  • Crabs

    another mainlander trying to wreck a culture….


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