The Case of Crazy vs. Harding
Harding University found itself on the opposite side of the craziness recently, and got sued. Dennis Gillam sued the university and the city of Searcy in April 2008 for illegal financing and a First Amendment violation. The case has now been dismissed:
For Release — June 25, 2009
Federal lawsuit against Harding University dismissed
Little Rock, Ark. –United States District Judge Brian S. Miller today dismissed a lawsuit against Harding University, Searcy’s Public Educational and Residential Housing Facilities Board and the City of Searcy.
Judge Miller granted Harding’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing the case with prejudice. Plaintiffs Dennis Gillam and Billy Pruitt filed this lawsuit in April 2008.
“We are pleased that this 14-month case has finally been resolved,” said David Crouch, director of public relations for the University. “From the very beginning, administrators at the school were confident that once the University’s position was presented in court, the lawsuit would be dismissed.”
Gillam and Pruitt in their lawsuit had contended the public facilities board had illegally issued low-interest, tax-exempt capital improvement bonds and loaned the funds from the sale of the bonds to Harding for capital improvements on its Searcy campus. They contended that the issuance of bonds to allow Harding to construct certain campus buildings promoted religion in a way that violated the United States Constitution’s First Amendment. Judge Miller rejected this contention and concluded “the bonds at issue neither promote nor inhibit religion.” The Court noted that the financing method has been used by numerous educational institutions in Arkansas, including some with and without religious affiliations. The Court also rejected plaintiffs’ claims that the financing violated Arkansas law.
“The judge’s decision affirms what we have contended all along. Harding and the Public Facilities Board acted appropriately and certainly within Arkansas and federal laws governing such matters,” said Crouch.
Although this lightweight case will be quickly forgotten, Gillam will be remembered for his many political moments, including:
- Losing the 2006 election for County Judge (by less than 200 votes)
- Accusing Harding University of rigging the election, busing voters to the polls, and supporting his opponent with the supposed “political science lab”
- Almost starting a physical fight at the Courthouse with his opponent
- Drawing offensive attack cartoons that the Daily Citizen refused to print
- Losing again in the 2008 election for County Judge
- A much anticipated but utterly uneventful visit to Harding’s campus at the invitation of the College Democrats