Vista del Arroyo Update

Since our article exposing the proposed $2.5 million federal handout of the Vista del Arroyo property to the Armstrong cult, several significant things have occurred. Sufficient outrage by taxpayers was generated, resulting in a reported influx of mail and phone calls to various U.S. senators, congressional representatives, and other government officials. This heat was transferred predictably to those HEW and GSA bureaucrats responsible for the proposed property giveaway.

After more than two years of attempting to analyze and decide on the transfer, they apparently could not now just change their original position and openly reject Ambassador College’s application on the basis of damaging information made available to them two years ago. After all, what would their superiors think of their competency or lack of it? How could they save face? If the transfer was allowed, however, a taxpayers’ lawsuit challenging the transfer was sure to come and sure to bring a lot of publicity.

A simple, uncomplicated solution was found: Offer Ambassador College the property with a clause written into the contract stating that the property could never be used for religious purposes. That would take care of the separation of church and state question and also allow the Armstrongs to accept or decline the offer without causing any embarrassment to the federal government.

Ambassador College’s reaction to all this was best summed up by comments Garner Ted Armstrong made in a sermon to students and faculty on December 10, 1977:

“I had a lengthy telex from Mr. Helge, of which I can divulge a portion to you. There is a paragraph, a very lengthy paragraph, in the letter which really does turn over-if we wish to walk in and to accept it sometime in the middle of the month of December-the Vista del Arroyo property to Ambassador College.

“But unfortunately there is already a suit under way on the basis of that same deadly paragraph from some organization which is arguing in the courts that some theological institution has utilized properties granted by HEW for religious purposes.

“Now, I have to say that here we are looking at the acquisition of a very large and beautiful building, and as I said in the ‘Personal,’ if God opens that door we will walk through it-if we are convinced it is God who is doing it and God wants that building for Ambassador College.

“But the federal government never gave anything to anybody, except our enemies abroad. Our enemies abroad receive money with no strings attached…. But there is not one dime of government money that goes into any domestic source whatsoever that is not followed by petty bureaucrats working at what they think is underpay for their skills who are going to very closely supervise that government money; and where government money goes, government controls follow. . . .

“Now the paragraph in [the contract from] HEW says that any such properties may not be used for religious purposes … All we’ve got to do is play little games and pretend to HEW that we’re not a religiously oriented college, that we’re just a secular college, which we are not and never will be. And then we just accept this thing in cagey little language or other and then walk into it, and then all we need is just one dissident student-and I notice we’ve got a lot of those anymore, both inside and outside where all the rest of the inside ones belong. All we need is one such person to write his deadly letter, or start his little publication, or start his little movement, and we’ve got a giant lawsuit from the federal government to kick us out of the Vista del Arroyo.

“Now, he [Ralph Helge] is dealing with the HEW attorneys both in San Francisco and in Washington, D.C., on that particular paragraph, and he’s opened negotiations for its possible redraft. Now if and when it can be redrafted to where there is no such danger, then we’ll look at it from that point of view….

“I will not walk into that building over there with government strings attached that say we cannot use it to house our theological library, to have a Bible study, or something of that nature, and to be vulnerable to some young thugs [he means us!] coming down here and starting some lawsuit just deliberately in order to cause us as many problems as they can. I just don’t want to take that on. I’d rather just say, ‘Forget it!'”