Southern Exposure

southern Holly Ruiz was married for 18 years to Enrique Ruiz, director of the Mexico City office of the Worldwide Church of God. In 1975, she left the Worldwide Church of God and was divorced. She now lives in South Pasadena with her two children and works as a secretary. The following interview reveals a great deal about the inner workings of the Worldwide Church of God and the life-style of its leaders.

MARY E. JONES: Ms. Ruiz, I’m holding a rather unusual letter in my hand. It’s dated April 14, 1975, it’s on Ambassador College stationery, and it’s from Garner Ted Armstrong to you. One passage that is of interest is a statement of Ted’s that says, “I admired and respected you as Enrique’s wife. Holly, never did I entertain any idea, God knows, of any sort, concerning you and me.” Now what is it in your estimation that took place that would cause Garner Ted Armstrong to write such a statement? Tell us, if you would, the background of this letter?

RUIZ: Evidently, Enrique confronted Garner Ted about some statements I had made about money Ted had given me.

JONES: How much money had Ted given you?

RUIZ: Well, Ted gave me money on many different occasions. For instance, the first time he showed any special concern for me was in 1968 when my husband and I were sent to Mexico. Garner Ted told me in his car that he had given Enrique $1,000 for me. He told me, “That money’s for you, Holly, to do anything you want with. You can redecorate your kitchen or whatever, but the money is for you.”

This was when Ted told me that he wanted me to have a house with at least five bathrooms-it had to be a very big house. At this time, and later, he gave me the impression that he was very concerned for my welfare to the extent that he was willing to spend whatever money necessary to make me happy. Ted even told me, “Holly, I can fly down any time you need me. It would only take three hours.”

All the time we were in Mexico, we lived up to Ted’s hopes by never living in homes with less than “five or six bathrooms.” The homes had servants’ quarters and were beautifully furnished. One such home (we’d had three different ones), Herbert Armstrong simply raved about. He loved the opulence and would talk about it often saying that it was the most beautiful house he’d ever seen. That was the one with the beautiful garden where we had seven or eight peacocks roaming the grounds.

JONES: Where did the money come from that allowed you to live in such luxury?

RUIZ: I don’t really know. Enrique took care of things like that. I remember one time when Enrique wanted to buy $1,000 worth of dining room furniture, he asked Garner Ted for the money. Well, Ted told him to simply take it out of Third Tithe funds. [Editor: WCG members were led to believe that the Third Tithe Fund was used solely to help widows, orphans, and the poor.]

JONES: Was the whole house furnished with Third Tithe funds?

RUIZ: I believe so.

JONES: Were there other ways in which Ted showed special concern for you?

RUIZ: Yes, at one time there were letters sent out to ministers saying that none of them were to bring their wives to a ministerial conference in Pasadena because the expense would be too great. But Enrique received a telegram from Garner Ted saying, “Your wife is invited” and that he [Ted] would pay for it. In fact, this happened year after year, and every trip we took to a conference cost a minimum of $700. This included expensive hotels, dinners, etc. Other ministers’ wives weren’t allowed to go along at church expense. We even took our children, and for others this was never allowed. At times we’d spend a week or more getting to the conferences-taking small vacations for ourselves-and the WCG paid for them. We’d also spend a lot of time going to the Feast of Tabernacles every year. The church also paid for this.

JONES: Were other ministers allowed to take vacations of this nature?

RUIZ: Oh no. In fact, one field minister told me that they would have to be with the organization ten years before they were allowed to take a vacation. The only vacation they received was when they went to the Feast of Tabernacles.

JONES: What about top executives in the church? Did you know of any of them taking vacations paid for by the church?

RUIZ: There were quite a few who took trips to Acapulco. Herbert Armstrong would come down occasionally. Whenever he would come down, we’d hold large dinners in the finest hotels for him. Everything was very expensive. For instance, we ordered three bottles of Dom Perignon champagne every night. During the day some of us would spend our time water skiing.

JONES: Then these trips were in no way connected with church business but were purely for pleasure?

RUIZ: Yes.

JONES: Was anyone else involved in the Acapulco trips?

RUIZ: Yes, any time Herbert was there his entourage would also be there. This usually included Rader [the organization’s attorney] and his family, Herbert’s daughter (Beverly Gott), the pilots, his chauffeur, and other members of his staff. I remember one time when Herbert Armstrong spent five days just waiting for a phone call from Osamu Gotoh. Other executives such as Raymond McNair, Ronald Dart, Rod Meredith, David Antion, and Richard Plache would also come to Acapulco.

They were all on expense accounts and never paid for anything, including gas, restaurants, and hotel accommodations. Everything was paid for by the church.

There were two occasions when Beverly Gott came down to Mexico on vacation, and Herbert asked us to watch over her. One time she spent two weeks with us, and we were given over $500 by Herbert to show her around. Another time Herbert asked us to go with her to Puerto Vallarta where we spent a great deal of church money just showing her around.

JONES: Was there anything about these trips that involved the church or church business?

RUIZ: No, we just went along to keep her company.

JONES: Is Beverly Gott a member of the Worldwide Church of God?

RUIZ: No, I believe she was disfellowshipped years ago.

JONES: Did you ever travel anywhere else with one of the Armstrongs?

RUIZ: Yes. There were other times when I traveled with Herbert Armstrong. Once I went with him to New York City in his private jet. I also took several car trips with him in his limousine. One was to Lion Country Safari near Anaheim, California. Also, there was the time that Garner Ted took my husband and I to Mexico in his private jet when we first moved there in 1968.

JONES: Were any of these trips on the Church’s sabbath?

RUIZ: Oh, yes. I remember going to Cuernavaca with Herbert. Nothing was mentioned about the Bible, or the fact that it was the sabbath. We went to restaurants as usual, drank, etc. Of course, Herbert Armstrong never talked about the Bible. All he ever talked about was himself-it seems that’s all he ever talks about. He likes to extol his riches and how everyone has to look up to him. One story he would repeat over and over again was about his brother once loaning him an overcoat when Herbert didn’t have any money and how he’s now the one who gives his brother money.

JONES: Did any of these trips ever include laymembers of the church?

RUIZ: No. We [indicating her husband, herself, and the Armstrongs] never mingled with laymembers or went anywhere with them. And after leaving church services everyone seemed relieved. Everyone behaved very differently after they left church services. It was as if they were putting up a facade for the church members. After services we would go out to dinner and drink and be ourselves.

JONES: Have you ever seen either of the Armstrongs drunk in public?

RUIZ: Both of them. I’ve never seen Herbert Armstrong sober after 8:00 at night. I used to notice this when I stayed in his home during conferences and on trips. He would fall asleep in his chair, and Rader would have to take him to bed. His daughter once told me never to call Herbert after 8:00 because he was always in a stupor by then.

As for Ted, he was always getting drunk, and when he was drunk, he was more carousing. Often he would bring his guitar to nightclubs and sing.

JONES: Did Herbert ever behave immorally?

RUIZ: Not like Ted, but he used to talk about sex a lot. In fact he was often obsessed with sex. He told me once that he knew more about sex than anyone else. A few years ago Herbert told me that he had a crush on a young Philippine girl. He brought her over from the Philippines and set her up in a really nice apartment. However, when he found out that she had another boyfriend, he sent her back. He also had a crush on one of his young secretaries. He wanted to marry her, but Ted wouldn’t allow it.

JONES: When were some of the other times that Ted gave you money?

RUIZ: In late 1974,1 was thinking about leaving my husband, so I drove up to Pasadena from Mexico to discuss it with Ted. Well, he was in a week-long conference at the time so I took a vacation to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park. When I got back to Pasadena, I asked him to reimburse me for the $500 I’d spent on the vacation. He joked with me about spending so much money, but he told me he would have it delivered to me that same night.

JONES: Did he deliver it himself?

RUIZ: No, he had an employee deliver it to me that night at Mrs. Gott’s house where I was staying.

Actually, I’d probably spent more like $1,000 on this vacation. I had driven to Pasadena from Mexico in a car the church provided for us and had spent a lot of money getting there, but I only asked Ted for $500 of it back.

At any rate, after I asked Ted for the money, we talked about the problems I was having with my husband and that I had been thinking about leaving him. At this time, Ted offered to send Enrique and me “anywhere in the world if it’d make me happy.” He also offered to send us on another vacation, anywhere we wanted to go.

JONES: “Another vacation”-had he sent you on one previously?

RUIZ: Yes. In either late ’73 or early ’74, I can’t remember which, Ted sent us to Europe and the Mideast on a “fact-finding” tour. We traveled all over Europe-all at the expense of the church-although we really did nothing in connection with the church.

JONES: So did you go back to your husband after that?

RUIZ: At that time, I decided to go back to him, but I finally left him for good in 1975. At that point, I decided that since Ted had given me money in the past I would ask him to help me with finances since I had no family in the area and no job and had been with the church for a number of years. He gave me over $1,000, and I was surprised at how easily he gave it to me. He seemed to love to give me money. I suppose it gave him a feeling of power and wealth. Herbert also gave me $200 to fly back to Mexico to collect my belongings.

JONES: Did you discuss leaving your husband with Ted? How did he feel about it?

RUIZ: I went to Ted after I broke up with my husband, not only to get help financially but also because I was concerned about the effect our separation would have on the church members in Mexico. Ted told me not to worry about that and that he understood how I felt. He explained that he too had had similar problems, but that his father had forced him to remain married and that he didn’t feel it was fair. He told me that he had taken off with one of his stewardesses to Colorado. Then he asked me if I’d ever committed adultery at all, and I said no and that I didn’t intend to. He seemed rather taken aback by that statement. I suppose he was leading into something, but I cut him off. This upset him, and he said that he just thought it would be possible that I had [committed adultery]. He said that he felt it would be typical because of his own frustrations and miserable condition. Earlier he told me he had had to cancel a conference in order to see me, and I said I was sorry to have bothered him. He made some comment about having ministers around all the time but that he didn’t always have me.

JONES: In other words he made it very clear that he was available to you?

RUIZ: Yes.

JONES: After this did your husband also leave the employment of the church?

RUIZ: Yes, along with a substantial amount of “severance pay”

JONES: How much severance pay did he receive?

RUIZ: $19,000. Why my husband received so much has always been a question in my mind. Either it was because Ted was embarrassed by the circumstances of my going back and telling Enrique about the money I’d received in the past and the way Ted behaved around me or it was because of the so-called contacts for the work that Enrique told me he was making.

JONES: What type of contacts was he referring to?

RUIZ: Well, Enrique was spending a lot of time finding out where to contact show girls and strip-tease artists. One time he was trying to contact La Tigress, a very rich and famous strip-tease artist in Mexico. I asked him why, and he said that she could be another important contact for “the work.”

After I left my husband, I told Ted about this, but he didn’t seem at all surprised. I also told him that Enrique was spending up to three days a week at the horse races, and Ted just laughed.

JONES: You told Garner Ted Armstrong, vice-president of the Worldwide Church of God, that one of his top executives was making overtures to notorious strip-tease artists and claiming that they would be useful contacts for the work of Jesus Christ, and Garner Ted Armstrong said what?

RUIZ: He only laughed and said, “I don’t know why, but I just like that guy.”