|Against the Gates of Hell
Star Chamber Late in 1978, several dissident, former Church members trooped into the law offices of Hillel Chodos in Beverly Hills with a list of so-called improprieties they said were occurring within the Church. After hearing them out, Chodos went to see Lawrence R. Tapper, deputy attorney general of the state of California, and recited to him the accusations made by his clients.
Tapper listened. Then without investigating or verifying any of the charges, without notifying Church officials and giving them their Constitutionally guaranteed right to refute or explain them, he set into motion legal machinery for seizure.
The first step was to draw up a complaint based on the false charges. Next, contrary to the courts own rules, a Judge was Telephoned for a nearing for the appointment of a receiver on an ex exparte basis.
It is crucial to understand the meaning of this legalistic Latinism. An ex parte order is a legal instrument made by or in the interest of only one party to an action. It is a remedy granted by judges only in instances where urgent action is essential to prevent a gross injustice. Let me cite examples. If a businessman is convinced, and presents satisfactory evidence, that his partner will close out an account or flee with assets of a jointly owned company, he may apply for and receive ex parte relief. If an estranged wife has reason to believe, and can offer proof, that a husband is on the verge of removing their children to another state, a judge may sign such an order.
But in the vast majority of cases, orders that could have serious consequences to one of the parties involved in litigation are granted only after hearings at which all sides — have had a chance, to be heard. Receiverships, especially, are normally ordered only after extensive legal proceedings in which plaintiffs offer compelling need for such action, and defendants are given their day in court. Never can such a hearing take place without four hours' notice to the other party.
The Worldwide Church of God was not given this notice. Tapper and Chodos got the illegal hearing as requested, and a receiver was named-all without notice to the Church. Every step of the way, from complaint to receivership, the Church was kept in the dark about proceedings that involved its independence and its very existence.
It was not until one month afterward that we learned a court reporter had been present at the hearing, conducted on January 2, 1979 in the chambers of Judge Jerry Pacht,* sitting in Department 85 of the Los Angeles Superior Court. According to the reporter's transcript, Tapper attended, accompanied by Hillel Chodos, his brother Rafael, and their associate Hugh John Gibson, attorneys for the six complainants or "relators," as they were called in the complaint. Also present was former Judge Steven Weisman a close personal friend of Hillel Chodos and the petitioners' hand-picked candidate for the receiver's job. Named, as respondents in the suit were several corporations, including the Church, Ambassador College, and the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation. Also named, as respondents were certain individuals, principally Herbert Armstrong and Stanley Rader.
The transcript is highly revealing. Note, for example, this statement made to the judge almost at the outset by Hillel Chodos:
"Your Honor, I want to interrupt just to state for the record, a copy of the proposed pleadings was furnished to you this morning. The original is in my briefcase. It has not yet been filed [my emphasis], but we are prepared to file it and pay the necessary fee at any moment.
* See appendix B for an illuminating account of how the matter came before Judge Pacht. "It is just that we did not want a public filing before coming to see you. I spoke to the clerk this morning and told him we would talk about that."
Judge Pacht responded: "Well, we are going to have to get it filed if I am going to grant you any relief, as I am sure I don't have to tell you, Mr. Chodos."
The proceedings ignored a specific mandate published in the Writs and Receivers Manual of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Rules 205.2 and 303.5 of the manual require that all attorneys who plan to submit ex parte applications must notify either the opposing party or his counsel in advance, so that the other side may appear and be given its chance to have its say. Nothing in the transcript of the proceedings even hints that this was done. To his credit, however, it must be said that Hillel Chodos was at least aware that we should have been informed and said so:
"I recognize that any request for an ex parte receiver, without notice, has to be viewed against a strong presumption that it is an emergency measure to be used with great caution," he told Judge Pacht. "I would suggest to you, however, that at least insofar as pertains to the Worldwide Church of God, Inc., Ambassador College, Inc., and Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, Inc., that the usual principles are not applicable. All of these corporations are organized and exist under California law exclusively for charitable, religious, and educational purposes." Their property, he argued, "rests in the court's custody, subject to the supervision of the court on the application of the attorney general. In effect, there are no private interests."
Chodos was now expounding a strange concept with awesome implications for all religious organizations. Heed closely what he was saying: The court's powers run "to all persons within the court's jurisdiction, and particularly to charitable trusts which are organizing and existing under the State of California [my emphasis]. In fact, this court, as I understand it, is the only court that has complete jurisdiction and supervision over the affairs of these three charitable corporations."
The attorney general agreed with the view that all churches in the state of California are actually "charitable trusts." And, when the session that afternoon ended, Judge Pacht ruled that this was indeed so.
By accepting this concept, all concerned did nothing less than trample upon such Constitutional rights as due process, the First Amendment guarantee of separation of Church and State and other basic protections for citizens of the United States of America. For if a church, whatever its denomination, is to be construed as a "charitable trust," it cannot own its own property. it is not the master of its own affairs. Its leaders are no more than trustees who serve at the pleasure of the State. Its assets are not its own but become public records. A church is nothing but a ward of the court, each of its actions subject to State scrutiny — which has no limitations — and to its supervision and control.
A church, in short, is no longer independent but subject to the trust laws.
It was a concept as illogical as a scene from Alice in Wonderland. Indeed, attorney Allan Browne, in a memorandum several months later, wrote this little parody:
ALICE: When is a church not a church?
WHITE RABBIT: When it is a charitable trust!
ALICE: When does a church become a charitable trust?
WHITE RABBIT: When the State says so.
ALICE: Things are becoming curiouser and curiouser.
For about half an hour, Tapper, Chodos, and their handpicked candidate for the receiver's job argued the fate of the great and flourishing Worldwide Church of God, with no representative of the Church present to defend itself.
What, indeed, were the complaints? Most were based, not on hard fact and actual knowledge on the part of any of the dissidents, but on the tenuous grounds of "information and belief," legalese for "gossip and rumor." Attached to the complaints were a number of declarations signed by certain relators and attorneys, but none of them in the proper form to constitute evidence in a court of law. The accusations were based almost wholly on hearsay — in some cases double and triple hearsay, meaning that the complainants heard their stories from someone who got them from another party who had been told by — etc.!
In support of these requests to the court, the complaint listed in inflammatory language a number of specific charges, among them that Armstrong, Rader, and others were "siphoning off" Church assets for their "own personal use and benefit"; that this 14 pilfering" of Church revenues was continuing "on a massive scale"; that during the previous six months the properties of the Church were being liquidated on the same "massive scale"; and that the defendants were even then busily shredding, destroying, and otherwise disposing of records of financial dealings "in an effort to frustrate discovery of their wrongdoing and to obscure the facts."
The attorney general's complaint was divided into four sections. The first sought an accounting of Church funds; the second asked that the directors of the Church be removed and a new board be chosen by vote of the members; the third asked for appointment of a receiver; and the fourth sought injunctive relief to insure cooperation.
Not one of the accusations had any validity whatever. Soon afterward, evidence was offered to the courts proving them false.*
Nevertheless, on that afternoon in Judge Pacht's chambers, the Worldwide Church of God was dealt a stunning blow. By a stroke of the pen, it was thrown into receivership — perhaps the most drastic remedy known to the law.
The receivership order armed one individual with extraordinary powers. He was not a member of the Church. He knew little, perhaps nothing at all, about its history and traditions. He had no knowledge of its doctrines, global reputation, goals, and diverse activities in all its fields.
* See pages 88-93 for a point-by-point examination and refutation of the charges leveled at the Church and its leaders. Yet he came to our Church with full legal authority to do the Following: To take possession and control of the Church, including all its assets, real and personal, tangible and intangible, of every kind and description...
To supervise and monitor all of the business and financial operations and activities of the Church... if he does so determine, he shall have the right to take over management and control of the Church to whatever extent that he, in the sound exercise of his sole discretion, deems necessary.
To hire, employ and retain lawyers, accountants, appraisers, business consultants, computer experts, security guards, secretarial and clerical help, and employees of all sorts to assist him in the discharge of his duties pursuant to this Order; and he is authorized to pay reasonable compensation to all his assistants out of the funds and assets of the Church, subject to the supervision of this Court as hereafter provided.
To take immediate possession of all books and records of the Church, no matter where or in whose possession said records may be found. These records are to include without limitation journals, ledgers, bank statements, vouchers, invoices, logs, memoranda, computer-readable data, and membership lists. These books and records shall be made available for the use of the employees of the Church in the carrying out of all their duties. They shall also be made available to the representatives of the plaintiffs in this action, for use in preparing for the trial in this action.
To supervise and control all the business and financial operations of the Church, including both ordinary day-to-day operations, and extraordinary operations.
Except as is otherwise provided herein with respect to Messrs. Herbert W. Armstrong and Stanley Rader, the Receiver is hereby authorized to suspend or terminate, as he in the sound exercise of his sole discretion determines is necessary, any employee, officer, or agent of the Church (subject to any contractual employment rights the suspended or terminated party may have), and to direct that said employee, officer or agent not be permitted access to any of the grounds or facilities of the Church from and after the date of such termination or suspension.
Messrs. Armstrong and Rader will be permitted to continue their prior functions as representatives and authorities of the Church unless and until they are, either of them, removed by proper action of the Church pursuant to its By-laws and Articles; or unless they are removed by further order of this Court pursuant to an application on the part of the Receiver. If the Receiver deems it necessary at any time hereafter pending the trial to move the Court to remove either Mr. Armstrong or Mr. Rader or both, the Receiver may file a petition with the Court on notice to the defendants, and the Court will hear the matter and make a determination on that issue...
To employ, to the extent necessary, accountants, auditors, and attorneys to conduct a thorough audit of the financial and business dealings of the Church; and to compensate said professional assistants out of the Church treasury...
To supervise the deposits and disbursements of the funds by the Church in accordance with the terms of this Order... [he] shall have the right, in the sound exercise of his sole discretion and at any time, to take possession and control of the funds of the Church forthwith by notification to the Court and to the defendants, and to deposit them in a special Receiver's account, if he deems it necessary.
It is little wonder that legal scholars, studying the events of that day, were incredulous. Many wrote to us or expressed themselves in print. I quote from just one, written by Jerry Wiley, associate dean of the University of Southern California School of Law in Los Angeles. Writing in Liberty,* Professor Wiley said:
What Deputy Attorney General Tapper asked — and got — from the court is mind-boggling to the student of constitutional law: that the judge meet with him, the accusers, and their attorneys before he was required to file any action against the church or even notify the church that an action was filed, and that immediately upon filing the suit, the judge would order a receiver placed in control of all the church's local assets, and, moreover, forbid anyone in the church from managing and disposing of a church asset. The court also retained the power to decide whether what the church proposed to do was religious.
* Liberty, vol. 74, no. 3, May-June 1979. Liberty is published by the Religious Liberty Association of America and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The association declares itself "dedicated to the preservation of religious freedom" and advocates "no political or economic theories." The deputy attorney general well knew that he was asking the court to commit itself to giving the state what it wanted against the church without the church's even having had opportunity to know that action was pending. Indeed, he was asking an advisory opinion from the court concerning the outcome of a case not yet filed, when the law in his jurisdiction did not provide for advisory opinions. He was asking the court to appoint someone to run the church on the unsubstantiated accusations of six dissident members — some say, "excommunicated" members. He was asking the state's judicial branch to take over the church before a case was filed, and upon the uncorroborated accusations of the dissidents — all this in spite of state and federal constitutional provisions for strict separation of church and state!
Cleaning House On the morning of January 3, 1979, the day after the hearing, Judge Steven Weisman, the temporary receiver, and his task force stormed into the Hall of Administration to fulfill their State-approved functions. As I described in the opening chapter, rose petals were not strewn in their path. Virginia Kineston and her small group of brave determined, and baffled young women barricaded themselves inside the executive offices.
The offices were protected by an alarm system; moreover, only a few persons had a key. We had taken the precaution of giving an extra one to the security office but it was locked in a safe. Virginia had telephoned and told an official: "Under no circumstances should that safe be opened and the key taken out."
The hours passed slowly. A silence, chill and forbidding, pervaded the building. Some fifteen miles away I was in a nonstop meeting with a corps of lawyers. From time to time, I would call Virginia, ask what was happening and pass along instructions. At 1:00 P.m., the girls went into the small kitchen adjoining the office and made sandwiches and coffee, then re turned to their watchful waiting.
At 3:30, Virginia was on the telephone when she heard a key grating in the lock. She looked up and saw what she later described as a "swarm of people." A security guard had panicked and given the intruders the emergency key.
"Those people," Virginia said afterward, "literally charged into the office. There was that very fat man in the rumpled suit, Hillel Chodos, and his brother, followed by at least a dozen others. The place became an instant madhouse. They began opening doors to offices, peering into the shelves, looking into desk drawers."
Over the bedlam, Virginia called out instructions to the girls: "Keep an eye on each and every one of them! Don't let them rummage through the files. Make sure they don't put anything in their pockets or briefcases. If they want to take something, make them sign for it and take a description of what it is." The men tore through the offices, followed by the girls.
Striding to the phone, Virginia called the photo department. "Get a man here at once to get pictures of what's happening." She called the television studio to send up people to take a visual and sound record too. Then she telephoned me.
Breathlessly she said: "They've broken in. They're taking over the whole office."
Total chaos followed. The men — the Chodos brothers, and others who identified themselves as government agents — ransacked the place. Despite the brave attempt of the secretarial staff, records and files, confidential or no, were rifled, gathered up, and carried off. Many of them are still missing months later, and the state has consistently refused to give any accounting of what was taken despite repeated requests from the Church.
In the basement garage, some agents pounced on a large box in the back seat of an automobile I use on Church business. They opened it, saw it was filled with files, and gleefully impounded it, satisfied they had captured vital confidential records that I would later try to smuggle out of the building.
The "confidential" papers were records of a legal case tried several years before by Ralph Helge's office; they had nothing whatever to do with the financial operations of the Church. I had asked for the files to check some facts and then sent them downstairs to be returned to Helge's office.
Judge Weisman wasted no time in demonstrating power. He told Hillel Chodos to send Virginia to the personnel office where he had installed himself; he was beginning to' clean house and apparently decided to start with my executive secretary.
Virginia went down and saw him for the first time. Weisman, a short, crippled man of medium build, leaned back in his chair. "I guess you probably don't like what I'm doing here," he said.
"Of course I don't like it," Virginia replied.
"Regardless, I have the authority of the state," Weisman said, and with that declared that he was "terminating" her employment. Virginia was aghast. She demanded an explanation and insisted that she would not leave without one. None was forthcoming; Weisman insisted she was "terminated," that she leave at once, and that other firings would follow.
"What about Mr. Armstrong?" Virginia asked, hardly expecting the incredible reply:
"He's out too."
Virginia gasped. "You mean he's fired?"
"Yes, that's right," Weisman answered.
"I see. And what about Mr. Rader?"
Weisman was unflappable. "He's out too," he said.
The Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God and his chief aide and adviser had been summarily "fired" by a court appointed receiver. Absurdities were piling on absurdities so rapidly the logical mind could not absorb them.
As for her staff and the others in the organization, Weisman said, he would talk to them and "see where their loyalties lay." Virginia, almost literally unable to talk because of her bottled — in fury, left. Upstairs she called me and, finding her voice, told me what had occurred. (Later, on a witness stand, Weisman blandly stated that he had not "fired" Armstrong.)
All Virginia was allowed to take from the building were her personal belongings. I told her to collect them and come down to Allan Browne's office with her husband, John, my executive assistant. They drove to my home to pick up my wife, who had packed a suitcase, knowing I would be in for a long siege.
They arrived at Allan's office shortly after 6:30 and the long, hard task of planning the counterattack was begun. We had to reestablish order from the chaos, prove that the integrity of the Church leaders was unquestioned, and recover the Church from the control of people who had no legal, much less spiritual, right to be guiding its destiny.
We worked until nearly daybreak marshaling our evidence. We ate when we could: Allan's offices were littered with trays, coffee cups, and empty paper bags. I managed to get about two hours' sleep at a nearby hotel where Niki had booked rooms, then returned for another hard session just after sunup. Earlier, a number of Church members came in to help Virginia and John Kineston search the files, organize and copy them.
Immediately after Virginia informed me of the invasion, I had called Herbert Armstrong in Tucson; thereafter, I telephoned him almost hourly, keeping him abreast of developments. Problems have never upset Mr. Armstrong and he reacted even to this serious threat with serenity, courage, and confidence. Over the years of my close association with this remarkable man, I have noted abundant evidence that he is the embodiment of his own message of hope and trust that the living God will provide man with the wisdom to prevail over obstacles. "No matter how intelligent, alert or resourceful you may be," he has written, "you need God's wisdom and help in solving the constant problems and meeting the recurring obstacles that beset life's path, whether it is in business, a profession, private life or what. The man who has contact with God, who can take these matters — these emergencies — these problems — in the quietness of his private prayer room to the Throne of Grace and seek God's counsel and advice is going to have divine guidance... Wisdom comes from God. "
I am certain that Mr. Armstrong took this grave emergency into the "quietness of his private prayer room to the Throne of Grace," sought God's counsel, and knew that justice and truth would ultimately prevail.
The damage that appointment of a receiver can do to any organization, and most especially a church, cannot be over estimated. It is as though a perfectly respectable individual were falsely arrested on a charge of sexual misconduct. Until the accused can prove his innocence through the laborious machinery of the law, a reputation built up layer by layer over the years has been blackened and virtually destroyed.
Sensational news travels fast and merits black headlines and prime spots on the evening news. If an accusation is made, the vast majority of readers and viewers tend to accept it. In the case of a receivership, moreover, the presumption of guilt created by the court's order is powerful. Few people ask: What is the other side's case? Rather, they infer that if the court has been forced to act, something very serious must be afoot.
In just two days we were to reap the first bitter fruits. Headlines throughout the country trumpeted the news that a church was being rocked by a financial scandal so massive, so shocking that the state of California had been forced to step in. And if people missed the headlines, they heard and saw it on television. Camera crews and newsmen descended on the Church in droves.
The name of the Worldwide Church was being blackened before it had been given a chance to say a word in its defense.
The Charges Shredded There was, of course, a great deal to say. The charges leveled against the Church, Herbert Armstrong, and me by the state of California were specious-cleverly worded and loudly trumpeted to sound meritorious but actually steeped in falsity, inaccuracy, and blatant untruthfulness. It would be useful to consider each of them in detail.
1. The Church has, in the past, refused to make regular and proper accounting of its funds, and continues to do so. The attorney general's own complaint belies this, for he in — detailed accounts of Church expenses, gleaned from reports prepared by the Church for the years 1975 and 1976.
Actually, outside audits of the financial affairs of the Church and Ambassador College have been made annually since 1956 and, since 1975 the International Cultural Foundation has been audited as well. Arthur Andersen & Co., one of the "big eight" national accounting firms, was retained to conduct the 1978 audit of all three organizations and to verify the earlier audits. There has been no evidence introduced to show or suggest that all audits have not been properly and professionally conducted.
2. Extravagant sums of money have been spent by Armstrong, Rader and other Church officials for foreign travel, lavish gifts, and entertainment. All these monies were expended in furtherance of what Church leaders and members believe to be its chief mission — establishing religious and charitable programs and spreading the message of the Gospel throughout the world.
In company with other representatives of the Church, Herbert Armstrong and I travel many thousands of miles each year to confer with heads of state and other foreign dignitaries as goodwill ambassadors of the Worldwide Church of God. The members are apprised of these trips, and of other expenses such as gifts, dinners, and receptions that are held for these leaders. Far from "high living," these are legitimate costs incurred while on Church business and are fully reported in bulletins and memoranda to members.
As a letter written to the editor of the Pasadena Star — News of January 22, 1979 states: "Does Judge Title seriously think that the thousands of people who support this Church had no idea that Mr. Armstrong went on these trips, or were ignorant of the system of Church government?" The letter concludes: "If the State attorney of California gets away with this infamy, I would advise descendants of the Pilgrim fathers to once again board the Mayflower and sail for the religious freedom of the Old World." to Church members, these trips are not a corporate
Thus, operating expense to be minimized but the heart of the Church's work. They are a tool that had been developed for a decade, to the point where the trips are now the Church's most significant avenue for preaching the Gospel. To members of the Church, preaching the Gospel is the primary reason for the Church's very existence, and to cease them would mean, in the eyes of the members, forfeiting the Church's spiritual legitimacy, preaching.
3. Church funds are being diverted by Mr. Armstrong and Rader for their own use. This charge was aimed solely at me, for no "evidence" was offered linking it to Mr. Armstrong. The attorney general charges that (a) in 1978, I kept the proceeds from the sale of a home in Beverly Hills purchased by the Church in 1971; (b) I then bought another from the Church at a price lower than market value; and (c) a firm in which I was a partner purchased an airplane and subsequently leased it to the Church. It was also charged that my salary was too high.
The answers, point by point:
(a) In 1971, I was asked to buy a house in Beverly Hills that would be suitable to entertain foreign guests visiting California at Herbert Armstrong's invitation. Although the initial financing was arranged by the Church, I bought the house, giving the security in my Holmby Hills home as a down payment, giving the Church a second trust deed for $145,000, and assuming a first mortgage of $225,000. Until I became a Church member in 1975, I made all payments on the house. Beginning in 1976, the Church took over these payments, and paid for other expenses as well, since my residence was used to further the goals of the Church. Both the mortgage payments and maintenance payments were reported by me as income and — I paid taxes and tithes on them.
Before this house was sold in 1978, I played host, in furtherance of the work of the Church, to such world-renowned figures as Gideon Hausner, the attorney general of the State of Israel who prosecuted Adolf Eichmann; Dr. Nagendra Singh, a member of the International Court of Justice; Teddy Kollek, the mayor of Jerusalem, and the ambassadors from Jordan to the United States and from Israel to Japan.
(b) The sale of the house, precipitated by Mr. Armstrong's request that we move to Tucson, brought a profit which my wife and I received as owners. This was never kept a secret from anyone. When the Tucson move was deemed unnecessary, I purchased a house in Pasadena, owned by the college, appraised at $208,000. The purchase price was $225,000, paid in cash.
(c) The story of the airplane goes back to 1967, when my sole connection with the Church was professional. I was neither an officer, a director, nor member of the Church when Armstrong asked me to facilitate the leasing of a plane, as the Church had been unable to overcome a reluctance on the part of the owners to lease to it. The only way I was able to accomplish this was to form a partnership, which then leased the plane to the Church. I agreed to personally indemnify the other partners should the Church default.
As to my salary ($200,000 per year), far from being excessive, it is simply a reflection of my earning power plus my value to the Church. Prior to my employment by Herbert Armstrong, I had a successful practice as an attorney and certified public accountant with many important clients.
I now travel more than 200 days a year on Church business and have, I believe, made a significant contribution to its growth and success. The salary, I cannot deny, is extremely good, but it is certainly not excessive in light of the above. What is somewhat ironic is that it is less than half of the amount demanded by the receiver and his associates as compensation by the Church.
4. Church property, including the 1,600-acre former campus of Ambassador College in Big Sandy in northeastern Texas and 50 parcels in Southern California, was being sold at prices far below market value to raise quick cash for the "personal use and benefit of the individual defendants." The Church owned the vast acreage at Big Sandy, having originally purchased the property for development as a sister institution. In 1977, Mr. Armstrong decided that the Big Sandy campus was no longer serving the purposes for which it had been established. He ordered the academic operations terminated at the close of the spring semester. The campus was costing the Church $1.8 million annually in maintenance costs, so it was decided, in 1978, to sell the property.
A buyer was found and negotiations were in the final stages of completion to sell it for $10.6 million. This figure was almost $4 million above the value placed upon the property by a national appraisal firm. The complaint, however, charged that Big Sandy was worth between $30 million and $50 million. Judge Title held in Superior Court that no evidence was produced to substantiate this valuation and, also in court, the attorney general conceded his failure to prove that the property was being sold below its market value. The sale — for $10.6 million, as originally intended — was later approved by the receiver and the court, but a determined group of Church members from Wisconsin successfully enjoined the sale when they learned that the receiver had requested a federal court in Texas to place the sale proceeds in his own account.
Judge Title also held that no evidence was produced to support charges that any of the other properties to be sold were priced below market value. These sales were made following a decision to reduce the number of college-owned-and-maintained properties for faculty members, a decision that rendered a large number of properties surplus. These were sold at prices exceeding their fair market value, all sales proceeds being deposited into the Church treasury.
5. Representatives of the Church have denied access to its books and records and have indicated they will be destroyed through shredding and other means." The attorney general was never denied access to our records. He never requested them when he stormed our premises without warning. There is no question that, if he had made such a request, in the same manner as the IRS, it would have been granted. The Church has nothing to hide. All our records, which are our best answer to these charges, are on a computer in a building about a quarter of a mile from administration head, quarters. Herbert Armstrong has not been in this building for many years. I have never set foot in this building; and nobody is hiding anything.
The alleged shredding of documents was discussed earlier. Even Judge Title held that the state had presented no credible evidence that any papers had been destroyed, shredded or removed.
6. The properties, revenues and assets of the Church are being "siphoned off" by Herbert Armstrong and myself on a "massive scale," amounting to several million dollars. The fact is that the internal accounting system of the Church has scrupulously accounted for every penny received and expended. No "pilfering" or "siphoning" could have taken place without being reflected in the accounting records. Arthur Andersen & Co. was requested specifically, in its audit, to verify the integrity of the internal and external controls in our accounting system and has rendered an unqualified and certified opinion.
7. Mr. Armstrong is a feeble and senile old man. Outside of the fact, which cannot be denied, that he is eighty-seven years old, this is pure rot. Herbert Armstrong's vigor and steady stream of activity in behalf of the Worldwide Church of God amply refute this charge.
Since July of 1978, he has traveled extensively, both in this country and abroad. He has visited the People's Republic of China, Japan, Morocco, Tunisia, and Israel, as well as making many personal appearances in the United States. He has written five books, two of which, The Incredible Human Potential and Tomorrow... What It Will Be Like, have already been published, with all royalties going to the Church. He contributes regularly to Church publications and has made more than sixty-half-hour television programs. He personally oversees all copy in Church publications and conducts many meetings with ministers and officials of the Church.
These facts were established by actual court rulings or clear evidence, uncontradicted by the attorney general, which was presented by lawyers for the Church.
But the assault did not stop.
Tales More Fearsome Than Fanciful — I Sinai Peninsula, 1490 B.C. AP (Ancient Press) — Sinai Deputy Attorney General Lawrence
Napper today agreed to discuss the State of Sinai's major lawsuit against the congregation of Israel, charging its leaders, Moses and Aaron and others, with pilfering millions of dollars a year, destroying documents, and failing to give an accounting of funds collected for charitable purposes. The suit demands an accounting of all funds, the replacement of Moses and Aaron with newly elected trustees approved by the state, and a receivership to guarantee the squandering of congregation assets until a complete audit can be made, or until they go broke, whichever occurs first.
In an exclusive news interview, the Sinai Star News learned that these charges are all based on information and belief supplied by several relators who were formerly members of the congregation.
Deputy Attorney General Napper was happy to explain the allegations.
"Yes, we have had an avalanche of complaints from present and former members of the congregation," he confirmed.
"We have witnesses who claim that this Moses actually broke some stone tablets with important information on them right in front of all the people. I have men gathering up the pieces now and we will be putting them together to see what records were being systematically destroyed and crumbled — undoubtedly in order to hide and conceal records of financial transactions that would show Moses and Aaron to be pilfering from the congregation. "
"But aren't the people basically behind Moses?" asked a reporter.
"They appear to be misled into thinking he is a special servant of God replied Napper. "But our position is that he is old and senile. After all, he is more than eighty years old. Probably one of the younger leaders of the congregation is influencing him and has some mysterious power or control over him. This will all be investigated.
You can be absolutely sure that when the facts are told, and the truth comes out, and the evidence we are going to present is seen, the court will rise up in indignation and throw these defendants and their attorneys right out of the tent on their ears."
"But isn't there a problem in suing the congregation, since there is to be a clear separation between the congregation and the state?" asked another reporter.
"We don't see any problem there; that is just a smokescreen," stated Hillel Chomos, a private attorney who brought the charges to the attention of the attorney general and was subsequently appointed as a deputy receiver and later as a special deputy attorney general.
"We are only interested in an accounting of the charitable funds," said Chomos. "People have the constitutional right to be stupid if they wish. But the state has laws regulating stupidity, and these must be obeyed. If people want to give Moses money to light his cigars with, that is their right. But when it comes to donating gold and silver or precious stones and woods and fabrics that have been dug or grown or otherwise produced here in the Sinai, I think it is obvious that the state has a right to see that such funds are not misused."
Another reporter interjected: "But the people are complaining that you didn't give the required notice before serving the papers and that it was unfair of you to hold a secret hearing before Judge Patch even before you filed the suit. Some are even suggesting that your friendship with the judge looks a little suspicious, and the fact that you waited to file the charges until the first day he was serving on the Writs and Receivers Department of the Sinai Superior Court also contributes to these suspicions."
"There is nothing illegal or wrong with holding an ex parte hearing. Moses and Aaron both know that," snorted Chomos. "They are just trying to cloud the issues."
"The people also claim that their rights are being violated the separation between congregation and state, and so on," added another reporter.
"That is a phony issue," said Chomos. 'Everybody knows that this congregation has no rights. They are perpetual wards of the court and the leadership can be replaced at the pleasure of the court at any time because the trustees always serve by permission of the court and under its perpetual supervision."
"What are some of the charges of pilfering based on?" was another question.
"There has been such monumental misuse of money it is really appalling," said Chomos. "This Moses has asked the people for a special collection of gold and silver and brass and cloth and all sorts of things allegedly to build a tabernacle. But we have evidence that he is using some of the precious stones to decorate the ephods of the priests, and to make Aaron a headpiece of gold. They have also reportedly been pouring out precious oil on the heads of the priests. This monumental misuse of charitable funds must be stopped."
"It seems like I remember the receiver complaining about some missing gold, too," mentioned reporter Lloyd.
"Yes, that is just some more evidence of corruption here. We have witnesses who say that Moses ground up a gold calf into powder and threw it into the drinking fountain and the people drank the water. No doubt this is just a trick to smuggle the gold out of the country for their own use later on. That is the only way they could get all that gold past the security guards. I tell you, we are dealing with dangerous people here."
Chomos, growing more and more emphatic, bawled, "Just to illustrate their absolute lack of respect for government authority, let me tell you about the worst thing of all they have done. This is what finally made the receiver quit and caused me to withdraw from the case.
"First they began sending their Offerings to their leader up on Mount Sinai where the state could not get hold of them. Finally, when the money ran dry and we were no longer able to pay the receiver his meager $150 per hour, he had to quit and look for work elsewhere.
"And to top it all off, they refused to pay me my modest fee of a little over $100,000 in return for my public-spirited service in suing them and trying to correct their leader's raw abuses of their finances. Well, I just could no longer associate with such people and so I am withdrawing from the case."
"Does that mean the case will be dropped?" the reporter asked.
"Oh no, absolutely not," chirped Napper. "I and my associates are on the public payroll, so we aren't faced with the kind of problem Mr. Chomos and Mr. Wiseman have run into. We can keep up this litigation till it comes time to retire on a state pension if we have to.
"We have even more ambitious litigation planned if the taxpayers don't get fickle on us. We are preparing a suit against God for His unconscionable extravagance. You know, He didn't have to waste all that color on peacock tails. He didn't have to make so many stars at night. Half as many would easily be enough. Why, there are so many examples of God's extravagance that it will keep us busy from now to the end of the age detailing them all."
The Sinai Star News will keep its readers posted on the wondrous plans our public servants have in mind, as they spare no expense or effort to rid society of evil and corruption.