HONOLULU — One of the churches a lawsuit claims owes millions for renting facilities at Hawaii public schools is planning to pay a settlement.
New Hope churches will pay $775,000 to settle the suit by Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State founder Mitchell Kahle and public advocate Holly Huber. They claim various churches shortchanged the state for using school facilities over six years.
The settlement was disclosed in court filings by New Hope's parent organization, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, Hawaii News Now (http://ow.ly/tB5hj ) reported Wednesday.
New Hope isn't acknowledging any wrongdoing by settling. New Hope Executive Pastor John Tilton couldn't be reached for comment. New Hope has previously said it would agree to make payments in the interest of supporting the school system and avoiding a legal battle.
Most of the money will go to the school system, and about $200,000 will go to Kahle for bringing the suit. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Education declined to comment to the Associated Press Thursday.
"The state was subsidizing the churches for many, many years," Kahle said.
A judge in December dismissed the lawsuit because it didn't contain enough details for a case alleging fraud. But the judge allowed the plaintiffs to amend and refile the suit.
Religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom is representing One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu. The group argues the churches aren't doing anything wrong and the state knows how the facilities are being used.
Kahle's attorneys plan to file an amended lawsuit against those churches.
"Hawaii's False Claims Act was never intended to bully churches into settlements when they did nothing wrong. Despite the settlement by some of the churches, this lawsuit never should have been brought in the first place," Erik Stanley, an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney, said in a statement.
Information from: KGMB-TV, http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/