Separation of Church and State? $2.5 Million Federal Handout to Armstrong Cult

churchnstateAfter nearly two years of review, the Federal government through its General Services Administration and Department of Health, Education and Welfare, appears poised to “sell” a choice parcel of real estate to Ambassador College for no more than 20% of its assessed value. The market value of this prime property is conservatively estimated at $2½ million.

The property in question is the historical, seven-story Vista Del Arroyo Hotel and nineteen surrounding buildings. They stand on 15.3 acres of scenic Pasadena landscape overlooking the picturesque Arroyo Seco.

The Vista property dates back to 1882, when a popular boarding house catering to wealthy families was located there. Later, the hotel was built on the site. During World War II, the hotel was taken over by the armed services and used as a military hospital. After the war it was used by various Federal agencies before being declared surplus property in November 1975.

An administrative services act passed by Congress in 1949 provides for disposal of such public properties at “l00 per cent public benefit allowance.” Federal agencies have first choice, but if no government agency has need of a property then cities, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions are able to put in a request. If no one in the above categories steps forward, the facility would be placed on the open market and sold to the highest bidder.

As it turned out, no other Federal agency desired the Vista property, and Ambassador College was the only educational institution expressing interest. Ambassador then took all steps necessary to secure the 80% discount given to educational institutions that qualify. An additional 20% discount would be allowed should the college become accredited.

Ambassador officials say they plan to use the building for a library, health center with hospital wards, general offices, studios and classrooms for the arts.

Initially the property transfer had smooth sailing, and it appeared the transaction would be concluded by April of 1976. However, stiff opposition arose from many concerned Pasadena citizens and civic-minded groups. Mounds of evidence were presented at the Federal and local level documenting much of the controversy that has been the trademark of the Armstrongs and their church and college. Among the charges documented were lack of academic and religious freedom, absence of democratic procedures, and the official policy of forbidding college students and church members from voting or any other “contacts with the governments of this world.” The Worldwide Church of God also strongly discourages any of its members from becoming involved with the military services in either a combatant or noncombatant role.

Some examples of the denial of basic human rights at Ambassador College are:

“You can stay at Ambassador College as long as you keep your mouth shut… and don’t tell other people what you think you believe, or try to convince them to believe your way. Because if you do that, then I’m going to bounce you out of here like a half-inflated basketball, buddy!” (Garner Ted Armstrong, sermon to AC students and faculty, Dec. 7, 1974.)

“I am… thankful that democracy will not flourish at Ambassador College” (GTA, sermon to AC students and faculty, Feb. 28, 1976).

“I tell you there are too many of us that are trying to see how close we can get to this world, how close can we get to Satan’s way and still get into the Kingdom of God. So now I hear sermons from this pulpit that now we can vote! That is not Christ’s way! What made a whore out of mother Rome? It was her contacts with the governments of this world!” (Herbert Armstrong, sermon to AC students and faculty, July 24, 1976.)

Affidavits were filed with HEW in San Francisco by numerous former students and employees of Ambassador College documenting their expulsion or dismissal from AC due to religious and/or racial discrimination. Dr. Roderick C. Meredith, evangelist and top official in the WCG, reflected the long-held church position on race with these comments before an Ambassador College congregation on August 9, 1975:

“But you know this is the land of Manasseh. [This identification is based upon the church’s belief in the Anglo-Israel racial theory.] Now our Negro members, and other members, whether they be Oriental, or Mexican, or whatever, understand that… and if Mexico City had an Englishman for a mayor it would seem just a little bit odd… and if Peking had… a Belgian for a mayor, that would seem just a little bid odd, and something might be a little wrong there. But we have a black mayor, here in Los Angeles… I’m not reflecting on him at all. I’m just showing you what has happened. The mayor of our capital, Washington, D.C., is a black man, and the police chief is also, and most of the other leading men in the city, because the white people have actually fled the whole capital. And when foreign people come to the nation’s capital… they are surrounded by people who are not Manassites… That’s not a blessing, that is a curse!” [See page 25 of this issue for more of AC’s racist commentary. Also read “The Real Cause of the Race Crisis” by Herbert Armstrong, The Plain Truth, Oct. 1963.]

These statements and actions by AC officials are clearly in violation of the intent and purpose of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It does appear that the Federal Government and the men directly responsible for the proper disposal of the Arroyo Vista property are suffering from an acute case of bureaucratic myopia. Or is it chronic, since they have spent two entire years at taxpayers’ expense prolonging what should have been an efficient investigation and subsequent decision. It was reported to this publication that Mr. Charles Fuller, HEW official in San Francisco, is one of the chief proponents of Ambassador receiving the property, an assessment we would tend to support based on his cool reception of a group of us who presented documentation at his San Francisco office. In addition, there is evidence that Stan Rader’s carefully cultivated friends in Washington are working overtime to facilitate this giveaway.

Since AC and the WCG first applied for the Vista Del Arroyo, we have held the opinion that even if they were qualified to receive what had been bought and maintained with public tax dollars, the full market value should be paid-not an 80% discount as it presently stands-especially since the Armstrong theo-political machine takes in capital at the rate of over $1 million per week. (In 1975 total income was $66.5 million compared with Billy Graham’s $30 million.)

This proposed handout is an issue that should enrage any taxpayer whether he’s familiar with the Worldwide Church of God or not.

Contact: Mr. Charles Fuller, Office of Federal Property Assistance, HEW, 100 McAllister St., San Francisco, CA 94102, and Mr. A.B. Pace, Director, Real Property Division, GSA, Mail Section 41, 525 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94105.

-Leonard W. Zola