In Hawaii, Atheists “Lei” in Wait for Churches Meeting in Public Schools

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Tourists the world over like to think of Hawaii as “paradise,” but atheists on Oahu seem determined to make the island something else altogether for two innocent churches wanting nothing more than to do what your church does: serve and bless your community.

On April 7, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys asked a Hawaii court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two atheists against One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu. The lawsuit falsely accuses the two churches of defrauding the government by paying what the atheists call “substandard” rent to the public schools in which they meet.

In fact, the school districts have affirmed that the churches have consistently paid all agreed-upon rental charges for the use of their respective properties. There is no fraud to be found – and yet the atheists keep insisting that there is.

I say “keep insisting” because this is the second time the two atheists in question have filed this lawsuit in just the last few months. In January, the same Hawaii court found that the two had produced no evidence of fraud. Their new legal action offers no new evidence – and seems like the very definition of a “nuisance” lawsuit. The church has done nothing wrong.

“These churches are the polar opposite of how the atheists in this lawsuit are characterizing them,” says James Hochberg of Honolulu, one of nearly 2,300 allied attorneys with ADF. “Not only have these congregations faithfully paid all of their rent, they’ve given even more in service and funding to the schools and communities they love.”

“Congregations serving the neediest in their communities deserve better than trumped-up accusations stemming from a clear hostility to churches,” says ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley, who is serving as co-counsel with Hochberg.

This Hawaii case makes an interesting geographical bookend for our organization’s oldest case – the Bronx Household of Faith, now in its 19th year in the New York courts. As in Hawaii, the Bronx case centers on efforts to remove churches from renting and meeting in empty public schools on weekends. Not because the churches are doing any harm – indeed, perhaps the opposite, for Bronx Household and many of the other churches are cherished for their contributions to the local community.

Still some people, convinced that “separation of church and state” means no public facility can ever be contaminated by a hymn or a Sunday school lesson or a kindly Christian outreach to the surrounding neighborhood, are determined to use the courts to scrub our schools clean of any spiritual germs God’s people might leave behind for the children on Monday.

And so, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, this particular battle for religious freedom – and the Constitutionally-protected right of people of faith to enjoy equal access to public facilities – goes on. Please be in prayer for our ADF staff and allied attorneys as they fight the good fight … so that churches like yours can continue to preach and live out the Gospel in their communities. And pray, too, for these atheist plaintiffs in Hawaii, that they might one day be with our Lord, in Paradise.

Author: Alan Sears