Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen announced today that he is filing a second amended complaint in the case of James Lee Parsons’ against Ecclesia College concerning Ecclesia’s receipt of almost $600,000 in state general improvement fund grants.
In a recently filed renewed motion to dismiss a Freedom of Information Act case brought against Ecclesia, Ecclesia revealed and contended that it was actually a church and not a college and that records concerning the expenditure of grant monies were church records.
McCutchen’s amended complaint alleges that Ecclesia violated Article II, Section 24 of the of the Arkansas Constitution which provides (emphasis added):
“All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can, of right, be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship; or to maintain any ministry against his consent. No human authority can, in any case or manner whatsoever, control or interfere with the right of conscience; and no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment, denomination or mode of worship, above any other.”
In the amended complaint, McCutchen claims that giving state grant fund monies to a church violates the Arkansas Constitutional prohibition on compelling citizens to “support any place of worship,” and that it also gives “preference … to any religious establishment.”
The amended complaint also alleges that Ecclesia, Inc., committed a fraud in the application process by representing itself as a college rather than as a church, as it now contends.
Finally, the amended complaint asks for Ecclesia, Inc. to repay grant monies given based upon the co-application of then state rep. Micah Neal and then state sen. Jon Woods in the amount of $200,000.
The amended complaint alleges that the application for such funding was fraudulent because it did not reveal the true intended use of the money because much of the money was intended to be paid as a “kickback” to both Neal and Woods.
McCutchen is separately filing a motion to disqualify attorney Travis Story and his firm.
In the motion, McCutchen alleges that State Representative Bob Ballinger (an attorney practicing law in Travis Story’s law firm) was a sponsor of two separate grants given to Ecclesia, Inc., that are alleged to be fraudulent and violate the Arkansas Constitution.
The motion alleges that Ballinger and other state senators and representatives who were joint applicants for the funds given to Ecclesia and that each was a necessary witness about whether they knew that the applications were fraudulent and that the funds were going to a church, even though the applications indicate that the grant monies were being requested for a college.