Part of Lawsuit over Harding U. Funding Moved to Federal Court

SEARCY, AR - Part of a lawsuit that accuses the city of Searcy of improperly providing economic support to Harding University has been moved to federal court.

The lawsuit is now before U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright.  The suit accuses the city of issuing low-interest, tax-exempt bonds so the city could loan the revenues to Harding University, a Christian college.  The lawsuit says that violates the separation of church and state.

The lawsuit argues that the loans stemming from the bond issue have paid for various capital improvements at the university, providing a direct economic benefit to Harding.

The lawsuit was filed by Dennis Gillam of White County and Billy Pruitt of Searcy.

Searcy's city attorney, Buck Gibson, refused to comment on the lawsuit because the litigation was on-going.

Harding spokesman David Crouch also declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit but said Harding has acted within the law regarding the sale of bonds.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)