AR13 September 21, 1980
Since our last issue, the California attorney general has actively continued building his case against the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) leadership. On August 1, after 18 months of non-cooperation, Evangelist Stanley Rader finally acceded to questioning.
The 143 questions asked by deputies of Attorney General George Deukmejian centered around Rader's personal finances in relation to the church. During questioning Rader admitted that he did receive income from Mid-Atlantic Leasing, which leased aircraft to the church. He also admitted receiving income from Worldwide Advertising, Inc., a company that purchases air time for the Armstrong broadcasts and in which Rader is part owner. But when asked if the church paid for redecorating his Beverly Hills home, Rader's answer was "no." (Compare this to p. 63 of "Fleecing the Flock" in our large 1977 Ambassador Report.)
While many WCG documents requested by the attorney general have been turned over, many have not. The WCG had been given until September 3 to turn over all documents requested by the state investigators, but numerous documents have been withheld. Among those documents unreleased are minutes of church and college board meetings. Church attorney Allan Browne has openly stated that those papers will not be turned over.
PETRIS BILL PASSED
On Aug. 26, the California State Senate gave final approval to the Petris bill, SB1493 (see our last newsletter). The new law will greatly restrict future investigations by the state attorney general of groups claiming to be religious. The bill's passage is a major defeat for many anti-cult groups who opposed the bill. Attorney General Deukmejian also strongly opposed the bill and says that although his office still retains the power to prosecute criminal fraud, the new law may effectively strip his office of the power to recover money improperly received or misapplied by church officials. However, four amendments were added to the bill that were not supported by the WCG: (1) the bill's implementation is delayed until June 1, 1981, (2) a provision was added saying that courts should consider financial restitution upon criminal conviction of any individual, (3) the attorney general is allowed to "make inquiry" concerning funds solicited from the general public for specific purposes, and (4) destruction or unauthorized changing of financial records was made punishable under the California penal code.
In addition to the Petris bill, the California state legislature has also passed SB1632, a bill sponsored by State Senator H. L. Richardson of Arcadia. This new law will prohibit the state Franchise Tax Board from removing nonprofit status from church organizations involved in politics or that spend substantial amounts of time "carrying on propaganda or otherwise attempting to influence legislation." Some have speculated that the WCG's recent lobbying efforts in Sacramento would cost them their nonprofit status. Obviously this will not now be the case.
Governor Brown's office has indicated that the governor has no intention of vetoing either the Richardson or the Petris bills, and so both will have passed officially by the end of September. However, the Petris bill does not take effect until June, 1981. Some legal experts had speculated that passage of the Petris bill could possibly have an adverse effect on the current investigation of the WCG. But one deputy attorney general has stated privately that his office is now confident the new law will not be a factor in the state's case against the WCG's leadership.
It is interesting that while both the Richardson and Petris bills passed the legislature, the politicians in Sacramento were again unable this year (they've had since 1976) to pass an antismog auto inspection law. And this is in spite of the fact that California is the state with the worst air pollution problems in the nation. That failure will cost California an estimated $850 million in federal funds for highways and sewage system construction, not to mention possible respiratory-health problems for thousands of Californians. Earlier in the year this same legislature was even unable to come up with a state budget, and so for weeks state employees wondered if their paychecks would bounce. Yet, somehow, this legislature found the time to pass both the Petris and Richardson bills.
Perhaps that is because in this election year, the politicians do not want to offend large church denominations with their large blocs of voters. But it should also be remembered that the WCG has carried on a massive lobbying campaign both in Sacramento and via the media.
Part of that media campaign has been Stanley Rader's new book, Against the Gates of Hell ($12.00, published by Everest House), which supposedly tells the story of "persecution" of the WCG by the state of California and Stanley's battles to protect the flock. The book, which seems multi-author ghost written because of its fluctuating styles, comes complete with background biographical information and photos of Stanley, Herbert, etc. The reviews that we've seen have correctly labeled this book a biased, obviously propagandistic effort. Not surprisingly, bookstores report it is selling very poorly.
It will be interesting to compare the Rader book with another book soon to be published - The Truth Shall Make You Free by John Tuit ($8.00, including postage, available from John Tuit, 11 Laurel Court, Freehold, NJ 07728). Mr. Tuit, one of the original plaintiffs in the state's suit against the WCG, tells us his book covers, in detail, the history of the state's lawsuit up to the present time. It will be available by early November.
ROBINSON BOOK RELEASED
Those of you who have ordered David Robinson's book Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web should have received your copies by now.
We reported in our last issue how two WCG members, Sherwin McMichael and Henry Cornwall, were attempting to stop distribution of the Robinson book and how through a temporary restraining order they were, for a time, successful. Robinson tried to get the matter into federal court. But he suffered a devastating defeat when U.S. District Judge James O. Ellison ruled that Robinson's arguments were "frivolous" and that Robinson's lawyer had tried to move the suit from state to federal court in "bad faith." Robinson was ordered to pay $352 in court costs and $6,000 in legal fees to the lawyers of McMichael and Cornwall. Said Robinson at the time, "I don't know what I'm going to do now. This is just unbelievable! I can't believe this is happening in this country." But even though he lacked funds, Robinson didn't lack faith. He fought on.
Back in the state court system, the case was put under the jurisdiction of Judge Richard Comfort. On July 18 he granted a request by Robinson's new attorneys that the plaintiffs post a $25,000 bond to cover legal expenses in the event the order barring the book was dissolved.
It was at this point that the plaintiffs' attorney, James Kincaid claimed that the plaintiffs were not really attempting to stop the Robinson book but only wanted a "prepublication review." He said, "We ask that there be a review of the publication by the judge to the extent that if confidential information is divulged, that information be deleted." But James Sturdivant, one of Robinson's attorneys, angrily responded that pre-publication review "is the Harvard word for censorship" (The Tulsa Tribune, July 18, 1980). (Kincaid is a graduate of Harvard, as is Laurence Tribe, who represents the WCG against the state of California.)
On Monday, July 21, the first day of the hearing, Comfort's Tulsa County courtroom remained open to the press although Comfort had earlier indicated he might close it to protect the plaintiffs' privacy. But on Monday, despite repeated objections from Kincaid - and a 10-minute recess during which Comfort considered a motion to close the hearing - the judge ruled he saw no compelling reason to oust the public and the press which jammed the hearing.
During the hearing, which lasted from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., plaintiffs McMichael and Cornwall claimed, under oath, that an unwritten code of confidentiality between ministers existed and that it would be breached if Robinson were allowed to distribute his book. But under cross examination, McMichael, whom Sturdivant referred to as the "church gossip," admitted he never had any conversation with Robinson about their discussions remaining private. "It never occurred to me," said McMichael. McMichael also admitted that he was asked by the church "executive officers" to become a party to the lawsuit. Both Cornwall and McMichael admitted, under questioning by Sturdivant, that the WCG was paying their expenses to and from Tulsa (The Tulsa Tribune, July 22, 1980).
Cornwall, speaking with a noticeable French accent (perhaps this is why Herbert Armstrong often refers to his constant companion as "Frenchy"), stated, "My church has taught.me that the only one who could judge me is Jesus Christ. If you do not retain the confidentiality of these discussions, it would be disastrous because you would be depriving the flock of its shepherds."
But four ex-WCG members - C. Wayne Cole, Ron Dart, Guy Carnes, and Benny Sharp - testified that they knew of no formal bond of confidence or implied confidentiality contract while they were members of the WCG.
The next day, at 9:30 a.m., Judge Comfort announced his decision. The temporary, restraining order blocking destribution of the Robinson book was to be lifted. But, Comfort stayed the order to allow an appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Full implementation of the stay required the plaintiffs to post a $400,000 bond by noon the next day to cover any legal expenses incurred by Robinson should their appeal fail. By noon of the next day the plaintiffs had still not posted the required amount, and the temporary restraining order was finally lifted.
Judge Comfort was apparently very pleased that the matter was finally out of his court. He told reporters that the case may have been the toughest in his seven-year judgeship. Said Comfort, "The reading material in this case was equivalent to a full semester of reading in law school. The portions of the book plaintiffs wanted stricken alone required four hours of reading Monday night." The case itself may prove historic. As one Robinson attorney pointed out ten days before the book was released, "This case is already making legal history, because this is the longest a book not involved in national security has ever been restrained."
A jubilant David Robinson took possession of his book shipment and immediately began filling orders. Robinson, who pastors the Tulsa Church of God, International (in contact with, but separately incorporated from the Garner Ted Armstrong group), told the Report, "We've gone through some rough times lately, but I had faith in the rightness of our position. I feel we've done the honorable thing in every way. And because of it, we have enjoyed remarkable favor within the community of Tulsa. They never were able to show during the hearings that there was a single untruth in the book. Overall, I guess the church's attack on us was a blessing in disguise. We've certainly gotten a lot of free publicity due to their harassment. Really when you think about it, they did a very stupid thing in starting their lawsuit."
Although Robinson's book has finally been released, Robinson's legal fight with the WCG is not over. The temporary restraining order against him has been lifted, but the lawsuit is still pending. And while McMichael and Cornwall would apparently prefer not to continue their battle, Robinson has taken the offensive and countersued both of them, Herbert Armstrong, Stan Rader, and Ralph Helge for $50 million, alleging they have "maliciously abused and harassed him" and deprived him of his rights to freedom of speech and religion.
Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web ($10.00, John Hadden Publishers, P.O. Box 35982, Tulsa, OK 74135) is the most revealing expose to come out on the WCG since our large 1977 Ambassador Report. We find it significant that Herbert Armstrong has yet to deny the many shocking allegations made against him in this book. Our limited space in this issue prohibits us from doing a lengthy review or running quotes as we had planned. But we do recommend the book highly to all who've had an association with the Worldwide Church of God.
TRAGEDIES IN THE NEWS
We were very sorry to hear of the drug overdose suicide of Mrs. Penny Walker on July 10. Mrs. Walker, wife of Larry Walker, the WCG's minister in Eugene, Oregon, was reportedly distraught over current events and church prophecies. She left behind two children and was pregnant at the time of her death.
Another recent tragedy was the suicide death of former baseball player Danny Thomas. Readers may remember that Thomas became a national figure with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1977 when his religion and career came into conflict and the story made the nation's sports pages. As a member of the WCG, Thomas refused to play ball from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. The media called him "The Sunset Kid."
Rader seems to extend peace bid to Deukmejian
By DICK LLOYD
Stanley R. Rader, under investigation for alleged misuse of assets of the Worldwide Church of God, seemed to extend an olive branch to the attorney general Tuesday in what appears an invitation to end the lawsuit without a trial.
The beleaguered church treasurer announced he will not succeed radio and television evangelist Herbert W. Armstrong as head of the ehurch, and he will resign all church offices and enter private law practice as soon as the lawsuit is ended.
At the same time, Rader revealed he no longer has a contract with the church and does not have a contract that will pay him salary or benefits beyond the lifespan of Armstrong as he previously held. He does retain a contract for personal service to Armstrong, however, Rader said.
Rader did not indicate what his present salary is under the new arrangement. Under the previous contract, which is part of the attorney general's investigation, Rader was paid $200,000 per year and was guaranteed that in the event of Armstrong's death, disability or retirement Rader would continue to receive $100,000 per year until the year 2003 as a consultant.
Rader discounted sentiment that his action is an effort to appease the attorney general, but he challenged the state to drop the lawsuit nevertheless:
"All he (Attorney General George Deukmejian) has to do is say, 'I drop the suit against everyone, and see what happens . . .
"If the lawsuit were to come to an earlier end, then I am more than willing to return to private practice," Rader said.
"If (the attorney general) questions my good faith concerning this issue, he can put it to the test by simply dropping all his lawsuits against everybody with prejudice, then see what happens."
But as long as the lawsuit remains in effect, Rader said, he will continue to fight the attorney general until he is "on bended knee." Rader acknowledged that the lawsuit could continue for as long as six or eight years and in that event he will continue to remain in his present capacity for that length of time.
Rather than extending an olive branch, Rader said he made the announcement to dispel rumors and innuendos that he plans to take over as head of the church and that his defense against the state lawsuit is a personal effort to protect his income.
His determination to defend against the lawsuit has made his motives suspect in the eyes of some, he said.
"There are those who believe I am self-serving or personally ambitious. But they are wrong. The only thing I want for myself is a return to private life. I continue the fight because I believe it is a good fight. With all my heart and soul I believe in the rightness of our cause.
"Under no circumstances will I succeed Mr. Armstrong as head of the Worldwide Church of God under Jesus Christ," Rader told a press conference.
He acknowledged that some members of the church also expect him to succeed Armstrong, but that "is not remotely possible."
"I am not even worthy," he said. "I am not qualified to serve Chirst in that way. It is not my calling to serve Christ in that way. It is not my desire to succeed Mr. Armstrong, and most important, I do not believe it is God's will that I do so." Rader said.
Asked if anyone is being groomed to succeed Armstrong, Rader said no, although he said there are many ministers in the church who are able. The fact is, he said, he expects Armstrong to continue in his work until Christ returns to the earth.
"I do not expect anyone will succeed Mr. Armstrong," Rader said. "The living God has charged him with a great commission to fulfill and I believe he will complete that work. God has never taken a man before his work was done."
Rader said he will never leave the church, but he will resign his paid positions and his ministry. Several months ago he was ordained a minister and evangelist in the church.
Upon returning to private life, he said, he hopes to devote the remainder of his working life to public service, "perhaps in a governmental capacity."
Rader said he does not anticipate the return of Armstrong's son, Garner Ted Armstrong, to lead the church.
It is believed that Armstrong's removal of his son from the church precipitated the lawsuit that charges Rader, the elder Armstrong and others with siphoning millions of dollars of church funds into personal use.
The above article appeared in the Pasadena Star News, Wednesday, September 10. As you read it, keep in mind:
(1) If the attorney general drops his lawsuit "with prejudice," the suit could not be reopened.
(2) If Rader fulfilled his end of the above "deal," it would still not result in the return of monies allegedly siphoned off from the church.
(3) Rader's "promises" are only as good as a politician's pre-election promises. He could legally change his mind or perhaps "God" will reveal a different course later on.
(4) Rader's claim that he will not succeed HWA as head of the WCG is pointless because, as we pointed out in our last issue, the Worldwide Church of God Inc. is no longer HWA's legal power base. The new "corporation sole" is. Even Rader admits that he does now have a contract with HWA. So the lack of a contract with Worldwide is of no significance -although, undoubtedly, many church members will be duped into thinking it is.
(5) Note that Rader speculates on his entering "governmental" public service after resigning from the ministry.
According to a friend, it was around that time that his emotional problems began. Soon afterward, he quit baseball. Troubles seemed to increase for Danny until this year when he was having serious psychiatric, career, and legal troubles.
A close friend told a reporter: "He was a super guy, but he just snapped. He just couldn't handle the pressure.... Danny was sick. You wouldn't believe how sick he was... His mind just wasn't functioning right. And he used to be so sharp, his mind just clicked all the time.... When he died he had no respect for himself whatsoever. It looked like Danny had just given up."
Thomas, 28, left behind his wife Judy - his college sweetheart - and three children, Renee 7, Seth 3, and Annie 5 months.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Evangelist Roderick C. Meredith has been allowed to return from his exile in Hawaii and is now permitted to teach classes at Ambassador College again. His name has been returned to the staff box of The Plain Truth but only as a "senior writer," along with Jeff Calkins, Keith Stump, etc. Insiders say it is unlikely he will ever again be allowed a position of real responsibility in the church hierarchy. Said one long-time friend, "They've emasculated him."
One name you do not see in The Plain Truth staff box any longer is that of evangelist David Jon Hill. He refused to sign the new mandatory employment agreement and is no longer an employee of the Armstrong organization. Another minister who refused to sign the new contract was Bruce Vance, who has now left the Armstrong church.
Walter H. Scull, of New Jersey, a WCG local elder for 10 years, recently wrote to us: "Please add my name to the list of ex-elders of the WCG. I left. When I came into the church in 1965, I thought that HWA was either an authentic man of God or the biggest con man there ever was. I then believed the former, but now am convinced of the latter. Please keep up the good work of exposing this fraud."
Former WCG minister Richard Plache is now pastor of the First Christian Church of National City, California. Interestingly, this church is denominationally related to the one in which he was a minister before his sojourn in Armstrongism. For those who are interested, Plache's church publishes a small weekly newsletter called the National City Harbor Light (1800 E. 17th St., Box 296, National. City, CA 92050). It contains synopses of Mr. Plache's Sunday sermons.
We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Mrs. Ledru (Shirley) Woodbury. Mr. Woodbury, pastor of the Church of God of Fruita, Colorado (1241 Twenty Rd., Fruita, CO 81521, see our Nov. 1979 newsletter) wrote to us, telling us the sad news. He also mentioned that his group would be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles in Denver this fall and that: "many local autonomy groups are springing up all across the country like popcorn. The shepherd is smitten, and the sheep are being scattered. You may have to add another page to your publication if you list them all."
DR. MARTIN NOT A SCHOLAR
At a WCG board meeting in December 1971, Dr. Ernest L. Martin explained to those assembled why that church's 19-year-time-cycle prophecy was erroneous and would fail. For the most part, the group listened attentively. The 19-year-time-cycle idea was based on astronomical data, so he quoted Jeremiah 10:2: "...be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them." Herbert Armstrong became furious and angrily denounced him. On that and other occasions HWA has pooh poohed Dr. Martin's studies by saying Martin is simply "not a scholar."
So it should be of no surprise to any of us that Ernest Martin's work is now gaining recognition from internationally renowned scientists and historians. His work on dating the birth of Jesus Christ has been the subject of very favorable reviews by leading scholars and was recently the topic of three important gatherings of leaders in the scientific community.
Isn't it ironic that Herbert Armstrong, who has claimed to be bringing the true gospel to the world, has actually brought not only confusion to his church but given religion in general a notorious reputation. Yet Martin, who does not even wish to evangelize, has, in fact, brought the Bible - with increased credibility - to many influential scholars who would otherwise not have given it much serious attention. We think the contrast is noteworthy.
Space does not permit us to go into detail hereon Dr. Martin's work. But the Foundation for Biblical Research (P.O. Box 928, Pasadena, CA 91102) has literature explaining Dr. Martin's research on this subject and its recent reception by scholars. Incidentally, the Foundation also publishes numerous free booklets of interest to those studying the Bible. We have received hundreds of letters over the years from people who have commented on how they've benefited from the Foundation's literature.
OUR SHORT ISSUE
We regret that this issue of Ambassador Report must be so brief. We have quite a bit of important information we'd like to disseminate, but our financial situation has made it impossible to publish our usual lengthy newsletter.
During the last few months, contributions to our publication efforts have fallen off dramatically. Undoubtedly, our nation's economy is partly the reason. But perhaps we have not done enough to make known our needs. We hate to ask for your assistance each issue or to always include return envelopes with every newsletter. But by not doing so, many apparently suspect we are "rich and increased with goods." We are not. We have again had to go in the red to get out even this small issue.
We do think there is both a real need for and an interest in Ambassador Report. During the last three months we have had more requests for the Report than ever before: so many, in fact, that we have had to have second printings of both of our last two newsletters and still we have not been financially able to fill all requests.
Perhaps the answer is to put a price on the Report, but we'd prefer not to. By operating the way we have, the Report has gone to many more WCG members, relatives of members, news people, churches, colleges, and former members than would have been the case had we only sent issues to contributors.
But still, it does take money to publish. We do hope those of you who appreciate our work will continue to support our efforts.
Ambassador Report is published quarterly as finances allow. Publishers are: Robert Gerringer, Bill Hughes, Mary E. Jones, John Trechak, Leonard Zola and Margaret Zola. Editor: John Trechak.
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