Lawmaker admits dodgy dealings with a Bible college

Lawmaker admits dodgy dealings with a Bible college January 8, 2017

Micah Neal, above, an outgoing Arkansas state lawmaker, pleaded guilty this week to conspiring with a state senator and others to arrange kickbacks from the funding of two organisations – one a Bible College.
As part of his guilty plea, Neal admitted that, between January 2013 and January 2015, while serving in the Arkansas House of Representatives, he conspired with the state senator to use their official positions to hand $600,000 from the state’s General Improvement Funds (GIF) to a pair of non-profit entities in exchange for bribes.

A Justice Department press release said that Neal personally authorised and directed a total of $175,000 to the organisations.
In return for his official actions, Neal received approximately $38,000 in bribes from officials at those non-profit entities.

The Friendly Atheist Hermant Mehta revealed that Ecclesia College, an “Christ-centred” evangelical outfit headed by Dr Oren Paris III – pictured above with a graduade – received £200,000 …  and that Neal faces up to 20 years in prison on top of a $250,000 fine.

However, as a first-time offender, it’s unlikely that he’d get anything like that. The most recent post in his Twitter timeline is a retweet that says, ‘Praise God even when you dont understand what He’s doing’.

Although Paris vehement denied on Facebook that his school had anything to do with bribery or kickbacks, Mehta said that the plea agreement, however, suggests that:

Paris was actively involved in the scandal. If that’s confirmed, it’d be a major blow to the school and its leader. This Facebook post could also easily come back to haunt him.

Paris wrote on Facebook:

After reading the statements contained in Mr Neal’s plea agreement, I can unequivocally state that neither I nor Ecclesia College have been party to illegal activity. We have never been a party to any agreements to funnel money to any state legislator.
At the end of the day, I am secure in the knowledge that there has been no wrongdoing either on my part or the school’s part, and any rumors, innuendo, or any future news reports that say otherwise are simply untruthful.

Governor Asa Hutchinson, speaking on Wednesday at a pre-legislative session sponsored by the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors, said the conduct described in the charges was:

Reprehensible for a legislator.

Neal, whose family owns a Springdale restaurant, won the Republican Party’s nomination for Washington County judge last year but dropped his bid abruptly four months later. Neal cited business and family-related reasons for ending his campaign.

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  • Feddie

    Tip of the iceberg.
    Since when have religious organisations not been all about making money?
    Do people like those in this article do god because of piety?
    They are in it for the money.
    Thats it.
    Prime example is the RCC. Awash with money and befouled with illegal financial dealings and false accounting all hidden behind a divine criminal firewall.

  • barriejohn

    ‘Praise God even when you dont understand what He’s doing’.
    So it’s God’s fault that they went astray? That’s convenient!
    The holy, spiritual, and eternal mindset of redeemed mankind eclipses and surpasses the profane, carnal, and temporal mindset of fallen mankind while re-establishing the only truly practical norm for all things. We are called to live and learn now in light of eternal values, anticipating God’s “well done.” (Mission Statement)

  • Here are the best statistics Ecclesia can offer on being hired after attending their college…
    94% of EC’s 2014 traditional graduates are currently employed full time or continuing their education.(Based on the 100% who responded to a recent survey.)
    The overall graduation and transfer-out rate for students who began their studies at EC in the Fall of 2008 are 3% and 89%, respectively. (Percentage of Full-time, First-Time Students Who Graduated or Transferred Out Within 150% of “Normal Time” to Completion for Their Program).
    … in other words, an unknown number of students took half again as long to graduate as they had intended and some of them got some kind of job at some point any time after graduating.

  • L.Long

    Religious ahole being crooked! Am I shocked! NOT!

  • Laura Roberts

    Honestly I can say I’m pleasantly surprised that this sort of thing is still prosecuted in America, Arkansas in particular. After four years with Trump and his conservative cronies gleefully ratcheting corruption to hideous extremes, I feel certain that we will recall incidents such as this one as quaint and relatively innocent.

  • Brian Jordan

    @Trevor Blake
    “The overall graduation and transfer-out rate for students who began their studies at EC in the Fall of 2008 are 3% and 89%, respectively. (Percentage of Full-time, First-Time Students Who Graduated or Transferred Out “
    I’m puzzled: does this really mean that only 3% of their intake graduated from the course and 89% defected? With the remaining 8% failing or dropping out completely – i.e. nearly 3 times as many as those who passed? No wonder the others defected!

  • barriejohn

    Brian Jordan: I assumed that they had those figures arse about tip – or that they didn’t understand the term “respectively”, though what relevance any survey “based on the 100% who responded” has is anyone’s guess. It might have been two!

  • John

    Religionists are crooks!
    Who would have thought it?