Members of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church have filed a lawsuit against a number of churches, accusing them of stealing from public schools. Mitch Kahle and Holly Huber claim that churches owe the Department of Education $5.6 million in unpaid rent and charges. Kahle and Huber allege that the churches intentionally file fake applications to get charged less.
"By not paying for what they use they are directly taking money from our state’s children," said Jim Bickerton, an attorney for Kahle and Huber.
"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 Kahle.
The plaintiffs say that a church called New Hope Oahu shorted Farrington High School $3.2 million over a six-year period.
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"The buildings are falling down and the state is still paying to run them and not getting reimbursed. It's tragic. That $3.2 million might have put a new roof on Farrington years ago," said Bickerton.
According to Kahle and Huber, three out of five churches who rent school space are not paying the proper amount.
"It can't be accidental because it's every week," said Bickerton.
New Hope Oahu Pastor Wayne Cordeiro said that his church has made donations to Farrington that total over $1 million, Hawaii News Now reported.
"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 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.