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James Gilles (born 1962), better known as Jim Gilles or more commonly Brother Jim, who calls himself an American evangelist whose ministry was concentrated on college campuses and outdoor events. He has preached on over 300 college and University campuses in 49 states and 6 countries. He has been engaged in several lawsuits challenging university attempts to stop or limit his preaching.
James Gilles was born in 1962 in Evansville, Indiana. As early as eighth grade, Gilles was already beginning to embrace the counter culture lifestyle that was still strong in the early 1970s. His first major encounter with law enforcement came during his freshman year of high school when he was arrested for possession of alcoholic beverages and under 30 grams of marijuana. Not more than a month later, Gilles was once again arrested for possession of alcohol and marijuana following an automobile accident driven by a friend. In his sophomore year of high school he was caught "smokin' in the boy's room" by the Dean of Students. Heavy pot and alcohol usage eventually gave way to harder drugs including cocaine. By the age of 18, the drugs and alcohol also led him to lose jobs from three different area bicycle shops where he was employed as a bicycle mechanic.
A five-year stint of alcohol abuse, heavy drug use, and an obsession with muscle cars, like his 1969 GTO, began to take a toll on Jim Gilles. In 1980, Gilles, while out scouting leaf raking jobs, he came across three houses that each had the same sign on them. The signs read, "Choose you this day whom ye shall serve for as me and my house we shall serve the Lord." Gilles, while riding his bike to a local auto parts store, rode past his brother's former roommate's house. The former roommate persuaded Gilles to start attending church and reading the Bible. Gilles promised to attend church the following Sunday but the Friday night before he attended a Van Halen concert. The chance encounter eventually led to Gilles becoming a born again Christian and completely changing his lifestyle. On November 7, 1980, while Gilles was attending a Van Halen rock concert. Van Halen's original lead singer, David Lee Roth, shouted to the crowd, "Not even God can save your soul at a Van Halen concert." Roth then began to sing their hit song, "Runnin' with the Devil". That is when Gilles saw the light. Gilles realized that he was running with the Devil on the highway to Hell. Gilles cried out to God to save him right there in the middle of the Van Halen concert. Gilles was immediately sobered up from his pint of Yukon Jack and two joints of Columbian gold. Gilles smashed his air guitar and headed back up to his bleacher seat, for Gilles had been standing five feet from the stage right in front of Eddie Van Halen.
The Campus Ministry
After meeting Brother Jed in his home church nine months after his conversion, Jim Gilles arranged to preach with Jed at Southern Illinois University for a week during his vacation time. The two worked well together, and they arranged to work together for another week at Ohio University with Max Lynch and Cindy Lassiter the following spring. In the fall of 1982, Gilles began preaching full-time with Brother Jed, Max Lynch and Cindy Lassiter. He travelled nationwide to 333 colleges and universities preaching to students.
Gilles utilizes the "confrontational evangelism" variant of evangelism that is shared by many street-preachers and other evangelicals. By addressing individuals personal sins with the claims of the Bible Gilles tries to influence sinners to repent and call upon the name of the Lord. Brother Jim's conservative Christian fundamentalist religious views oftentimes brings persecution from opponents resulting in him being arrested at least 30 times since 1980 for various charges ranging from trespassing, loitering, disorderly conduct, breach of peace and unreasonable noise on university campuses and public sidewalks.
Gilles has been invited into many university classrooms to speak, been featured in hundreds of college and university newspaper and magazine articles and yearbooks. Fraternities and Sororities have had Gilles over for dinner and parties.
In another case originating in 2002 Gilles challenged Maiami University banning him from campus because they required all speakers to first get a permit. This case was dismised by a district court, then reinstated and remanded by the 6th court of appeals on the ground that the district court should have investigated the fairness of the policy.
He was involved in a case against Vincennes University trying to force it to expand its allowed free-speech zone. In 2007 Gilles and the Alliance Defense Fund appealed the Circuit Coourt Ruling to the US Supreme Court but they were not granted cert.
From the beginning Gilles highly confrontational style caused his actions to come under scutiny and campus police to try and stop him. At least in the beginning free-speech advocates in university administration did not try to stop his free speech. Ron Leadbetter was among these.
Brother Jim gained media attention when he filed a federal lawsuit against Murray State University in late September 2006. The lawsuit alleges that Murray State deprived him of his rights to free speech when he was told that he would have to stop preaching until he secured sponsorship from a campus organization. Gilles contended that he has frequented Murray State since the 1980s and never before required a sponsor. Gilles lost the lawsuit when the court ruled Murray State's speech policy requiring speakers to obtain on-campus sponsors is legal.   However, he reached a settlement to be allowed to speak on the Murray State campus in November 2007.
Here is one of Bro Jim's favorite US Supreme Court quotes, "Accordingly a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, supra, pp. 571-572, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest. See Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252, 262; Craig v. Harney, 331 U.S. 367, 373. There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas 5*5 either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups."
- ^ article from The Tech Talk, student newspaper at Louisiana Tech.
- ^ "Western Kentucky evangelist files free speech lawsuit against MSU"
- ^ "ADF files suit on behalf of Christian barred from exercising religious expression at Murray State"
- ^ "Evangelist loses free-speech suit against Murray State"
- ^ "Court Rules Against Campus Preacher in Free-Speech Lawsuit" Chronicle of Higher Education, July 9, 2007
- ^ "Evangelist allowed on university campus"
- Dan Horn "Street Preacher Sues XU over speech restrictions", Cincinati Enquirer, April 1, 2004
- "Miami U. Challenges Federal Court Decision"
- "Reflections on Judging", Richard A. Posner,
- WIBC article on the decision appeal
- "Big Orange, Black Storm Clouds and More UT: A History of the University of Tennessee". p. 276-277. 2015]
- Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 US 1 - Supreme Court 1949
- Athens News, July 20, 2016
- TV report on the OU incident