Kahle v. One Love Ministries
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Description: Two atheists have falsely accused two Hawaii churches represented by Alliance Defending Freedom of defrauding the government in a lawsuit filed in state court. The lawsuit claims the churches committed fraud by paying substandard rent to the public schools in which they meet even though the school districts themselves agree that the churches have consistently paid all agreed-upon rents. The atheists, Mitchell Kahle and Holly Huber, filed their suit under the state’s False Claims Act. The law allows “whistleblowers” with inside information to expose fraudulent billing by government contractors; however, the lawsuit fails to cite a single instance in which the churches submitted a false statement to defraud the government. The existence of a false claim is a necessary element of a False Claims Act complaint. Kahle and Huber also fail to meet several other requirements of the law.
Hawaii court to consider whether baseless lawsuit against Oahu churches will continue
WHO: ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus and ADF Senior Counsel Ken Connelly
WHAT: Available for media interviews following oral arguments in Kahle v. One Love Ministries
WHEN: Friday, Dec. 4, immediately following hearing, which begins at 11 a.m. HST
WHERE: To schedule an interview, contact ADF Media Relations Specialist Bernadette Tasy at (480) 356-0324 or submit a request online
The atheists filed the suit, Kahle v. One Love Ministries, under Hawaii’s False Claims Act, a law reserved for whistleblowers with inside information that someone has defrauded the government. ADF attorneys are asking the court to rule in favor of the churches and dismiss the suit based on the fact that the two individuals who filed it, Mitchell Kahle and Holly Huber, make the counterintuitive claim that the two community-service-oriented churches defrauded the state by paying the rates the schools’ officials charged them, which was less than the atheists thought should be charged. Additionally, Kahle and Huber do not qualify as whistleblowers under the law because the rent and facility-use information they obtained shows no wrongdoing and is publicly available.
“Hawaii’s law is reserved for serious fraud cases involving actual whistleblowers. It is not designed to pit neighbor against neighbor, and it certainly should not be abused by those who simply have an axe to grind against religion,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ken Connelly, who will argue before the court on behalf of the churches. “Furthermore, the facts and evidence show that these churches were at all times truthful and that they not only paid what the schools required of them, they went much further—donating property improvements and volunteering their time. No one benefits from this suit except the two atheists bringing it, who stand to gain financially if they are successful.”
Kahle and Huber filed their original lawsuit in 2013 but have never cited a single instance in which the churches submitted a false statement to defraud the government. In fact, in addition to paying all of their required rent, the churches have voluntarily made other substantial contributions to the schools. For example, during the several years that One Love Ministries rented Kaimuki High School, the church community provided mentoring of Kaimuiki students; performed landscaping and maintenance of the school campus; replaced the floor of the auditorium stage; invested in remodeling all of the campus bathrooms; and removed graffiti from the school on a weekly basis, among other enhancements.
James Hochberg, one of more than 3,400 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as co-counsel on behalf of the churches.
- Pronunciation guide: Galus (GAL’-us), Hochberg (HOAK’-burg)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.