|Against the Gates of Hell
God and the State Sounding Alarms
The California attorney general has launched a major assault on First Amendment freedoms by actually claiming that all assets of churches are public property and all monies they collect are held in public trust subject to government review and supervision. The struggle for man's right to worship free of direction or interference from government is as old as the history of the human race,
If he is permitted to succeed in his actions, no records of churches will be exempt from his examination, and no church will be safe from governmental intrusion and interference. And one of the foundational precepts of American freedom — the separation of church and state and individual religious liberty will be ended.
— Herbert W. Armstrong
Throughout the centuries mankind's reach for freedom of religion has remained beyond his grasp, like a tantalizing will-o'the-wisp. In some eras and some nations, man has come close to his goal, allowed a measure of independence of thought, conscience, and faith. But in other times and places, there have been black chapters when worship was dictated and persecutions of those who challenged the laws swift and terrible. In the long sweep of history, there has never been a time when this sacred right to reverence enveloped the whole earth. Eradicated in one part of the globe, the evil has always broken out in another.
The malfeasance that cannot be crushed has now erupted in the United States of America, ironically, the only country whose unique achievement and distinction at its founding was to create an unbridgeable chasm between Church and State. Fourteen years after the Constitution was ratified, Thomas Jefferson thundered this defense of what was written in Philadelphia and became the supreme law of the land:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state." [Emphasis added.]
Now, almost two hundred years later, the wall is being assaulted. There is grave risk that it might shatter, and that church state relations may be drastically and basically changed soon, perhaps even in this decade.
An increasing number of religious leaders and observers of the current scene are becoming alarmed at what they see. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, held in the fall of 1979, devoted much of its meeting to the subject. "In the last ten years," Father Charles Whelan, S.J., professor of law at Fordham University in New York, told the conference, "many events have occurred that give us just cause for concern about the current attitude and future disposition of the state and federal government toward the American churches."
Citing the increased intrusion of government bureaucrats into the activities of religious organizations, the Rev. Dean M. Kelley of the National Council of Churches said to United Press International religion writer David E. Anderson in October 1979: "It is the unfolding of the bureaucratic propensity to rationalize, to control, to regularize. They [the bureaucrats] are totally unaware of the First Amendment."
* Ansel Phelps Stokes, Church and State in the United States, Vol. 1, p. 335 (Jefferson to Danbury Baptists of Connecticut, 1802). Never was that more true than in the receivership imposed upon the Worldwide Church of God. Note these chilling, words from Dr. J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Evanston, Illinois:
"Unchallenged, this action by the State of California will extend government's authority into the private life of every church and religious organization, with blatant disregard for the Constitution, and will say that a government lawyer has the right to decide how a church can extend its mission, spread its message, obtain and spend its money. How far is it from there, one wonders, to a government that has the right and duty to determine what a church's message should be, or should not be?"
A number of organizations unaffiliated with the Church have filed friend-of-the-court briefs detailing support of the Church and warning of the dire consequences implicit in the actions of the attorney general.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has come to our help. After the decision was made to file the amicus curiae brief, Professor John Hutchinson of Claremont Theology School and a member of the ACLU's church and state committee asserted: "You cannot separate the raising of money with the proclamation of a religious message. In this case, our conclusion is that the attorney general is in violation of the law and his violation of law is a grave precedent for all of us."
Americans United for Church and State Fund, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., whose goal is to maintain and advance civil and religious liberties through enforcement of the rights and privileges granted by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, made this strong statement to the Superior Court in its application for leave to file an amicus curiae brief:
Americans United Fund believes this to be a most serious intrusion of the state into church affairs regardless of the nature of any allegations made against church officials, particularly in light of the fact that such allegations have not yet been proven.
American United Fund further believes that the action of the State of California is so destructive of the doctrine of separation of church and state as to require immediate remedial relief. It further believes that even if any of the allegations made are true there are more appropriate remedies available to the state which would be less violative of the religion clause of the Constitution and which would preserve the autonomy and freedom of the church. Americans United Fund believes further that to permit the action of the State of California to be left undisturbed would be to countenance a type of action which could later be used against other church groups in a manner ultimately destructive of the Constitutional mandate of nongovernmental interference with religion. Americans United Fund in its brief will contend that the state must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the actions of the church are violative of a compelling state interest and that the appointment of a receiver is the least intrusive alternative available as a condition precedent to the appointment of a receiver to possess the property of the church and to exercise control over church affairs.
Add to this the warning of Associate Dean Jerry Wiley of the University of Southern California School of Law, published in Liberty, a bimonthly that calls itself "a magazine of religious freedom":
No, it may not have been your church this time. But tomorrow it may be. For unless all who cherish freedom speak up on behalf of a church whose doctrines and practices they may not respect or hold, their church to some degree is more likely to be next. *
From all quarters, the tocsins are sounding.
Flight to Freedom The early years of Christianity were scarred by the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. In the same Dark Ages, religious battles raged throughout Europe. The soil of the Old World was drenched with the blood of millions of martyrs. In 1536, William
* Jerry Wiley, "A Constitutional Outrage," Liberty, May-June 1979, p. 9. Tyndale, the English reformer and humanist, was condemned for heresy and executed for daring to translate the Scriptures into everyday English. Church leaders had feared spiritual anarchy if every man had his own Bible. The Church-State scheme of things was not working well.
In quest of religious liberty and freedom of worship, men and women began to leave the persecutions of the Old World for the challenges of the New in the hope that they might be free to practice their own faith in their own way.
The Founding Fathers clearly perceived that the religiopolitical scheme of joint sovereignty had not fortified human rights or freedom of conscience in the nations of Europe. Church and State had mixed like oil and water. Some other system simply had to be found.
But it would be wrong to think that these abuses, injustices and outrages were confined solely to England and the continent of Europe.,, Many in the thirteen colonies were adamantly opposed to this "new order of things" forming in the minds of thinking men throughout New England and the other American colonies. Indeed a heavy "loyalist" element was present right up to 1776 and even beyond.
Soon the very religious intolerance which our forefathers fled from Europe to escape was plaguing the American colonies. It wasn't long before nine of the original thirteen passed laws that established what they called "correct" religions and levied taxes to support them. A law emerged on the statute books of Virginia in 1610 requiring Sunday attendance at church under penalty of death for persistent violation. Fines were assessed against those who rejected the doctrine of infant baptism. Other laws were enacted in Virginia forbidding travel on Sunday.
In 1647 Massachusetts enacted a law banning Catholic priests from within its boundaries. First offenders were to be imprisoned or exiled; and, believe it or not, second offenders risked the death penalty. Quakers faced the same fate in Massachusetts. Other American colonies also had their religious laws.
Nor did these laws conveniently disappear from state statute books when the Constitution of the United States was finally ratified. Notice this statement in the American State Papers on Freedom of Religion:
When the Union was formed and a constitutional government was ordained on the basis of total separation of church and state, there were certain religious jealousies and prejudices which prevailed in various sections of the country and which could not be overcome without jeopardizing the ratification of the Constitution and the set-up of the Federal Government. As a consequence, the various States were permitted to retain upon their statute books religious laws which were diametrically opposed to the fundamental principles of religious liberty and human rights as set forth in the Federal Constitution. These un-American laws and religious tests have remained upon some State statute books to plague American citizens and courts until this present time. [Emphasis added.]
It is axiomatic that all Americans owe the Founding Fathers a great debt for our vast religious freedoms. Each one contributed to these liberties something a little different from the other. However, the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, was a real champion of religious freedom. In addition to writing the statute for religious freedom in Virginia, Jefferson was a philosophical "father figure" to the Bill of Rights. His ardor for religious liberty was an unquenchable fire. He pressed hard for both freedom of worship and freedom from the oppressions of a State church. The final clause of the bill he wrote served warning that any future legislation that either repealed or constricted the law would "be an infringement of natural right." The heart, root, and core of his bill for religious freedom in Virginia is found in Section II:
We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burdened in his body or goods, or shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or effect their civil capacities. Jefferson's Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom was the philosophical progenitor of the religious portions of the later Bill of Rights. Religion was not only to be tolerated, but a man's personal religious beliefs and practices were to be protected by law.
In his sunset years, Jefferson indicated that his battles for religious freedom were perhaps the bitterest of his life. We owe a great deal to this man and to his presidential successor, James Madison. It was Madison who pushed Jefferson's bill through the Virginia State Legislature.
Madison, our fourth president, excelled in biblical courses as a graduate student at Princeton, especially in Hebrew language studies. He continued his theological studies throughout his life. He was first and foremost an advocate of freedom of worship. He wrote the first rough manuscript of the article on religious freedom of the state Constitution of Virginia. It said:
That religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence: and therefore, that all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience, unpunished and unrestrained by the magistrate, unless under colour of religion, any man disturb the peace, the happiness, or safety of Society. And that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love and charity towards each other.*
But the capstone of President Madison's contribution to religious freedom has to be the inclusion of the First Amendment in the Constitution. It appeared on the opening page of this book, but it cannot be repeated too often: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Previous to its inclusion, the fear that the Constitution had not provided sufficient guarantees for religious liberty was enunciated by a host of early American patriots.
* The Journal of the Virginia Convention, 1776. Writing from Paris on December 20, 1787, Thomas Jefferson expressed his concern to James Madison: "I will now add what I do not like. First, the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion..." * As he had done before, Madison was instrumental in giving Jefferson's views (which he shared) the force of law.
As Norman Cousins so aptly put it:
The founders of this nation came here to get out of the clutches of state-sponsored religions that perpetrated all sorts of injustices and outrages against which the citizenry had no recourse under the law. When the Founding Fathers spoke about freedom of religion, they were thinking of the need to separate religion from political authority. Freedom of religion was intended to protect the individual in his right to believe or not to believe, to affiliate or not to affiliate, to worship in a church or to worship at all. Freedom of choice was what the First Amendment was all about. But the struggle did not end with the inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. Old ideas die hard. Enormous pressures were put on Congress and government officials to formulate this or that religious law. Petitions and protests came from every sector of the country. It would not be easy for the fledgling nation to maintain religious liberty.
Very soon several of the state legislatures began to pass religious legislation. Liberty would now have to be found at the Bar. The courts would have to defend our Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.
Courts do not change constitutions, but they do interpret them in order to apply the principle to specific disputes involving human rights and privileges. In general, the higher courts of the land, usually presided over by judges of keen intellect, judicial minds, and long experience in dealing with human rights, have upheld the federal principles of religious liberty in rendering their decisions.
* Papers of James Madison, vol. 8, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Saturday Review, January 6, 1979. Although the states have tended to lag behind the nation in their expressions of Constitutional religious freedom, due credit must be given to those, which have guaranteed freedom of worship in their constitutions. Ironically, sometimes a state legislature may even pass laws in contravention of its own constitution. California is a case in point. Article 1, Section four of California's constitution states:
The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be guaranteed in this State [emphasis. added]; and no person shall be rendered incompetent to be a witness or juror on account of his opinions on matters of religious belief; but the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify practices inconsistent with the peace and safety of this State. The language is clear, precise, and unambiguous. Freedom of religion is "forever guaranteed" in the State of California. Protection is rock-solid.
But is it?
The "Charitable Trust" Ploy With his contention that all churches are "charitable trusts," the attorney general made an end run around this clear enunciation of our guarantees. This concept, discussed briefly in chapter 5, deserves amplification, and not only because of the severe wounds it has inflicted on — our Church. The harsh truth is that no religious organization in the United States can rest easily if the precedent set by this amazing redefinition of a church spreads across the land.
Nimbly sidestepping all the Constitutional guarantees, the attorney general dipped into the law regulating California nonprofit corporations and emerged with Corporation Code Section 9505, headed "Supervision of Attorney General Where Property Held in Trust." The section reads as follows:
A non-profit corporation which holds property subject to any public or charitable trust is subject at all times to examination by the Attorney General, on behalf of the State, to ascertain the condition of its affairs and to what extent, if at all, it may fail to comply with trusts which it has assumed or may depart from the general purposes for which it is formed. In case of any such failure or departure the Attorney General shall institute, in the name of the State, the proceedings necessary to correct the noncompliance or departure. What does this piece of legal fiction mean according to the claims of the attorney general? Consider: that a church is no longer the owner of its property or the master of its own affairs; that its members neither own nor control it; that the assets of a church are public assets, its records public records, and the general public is the beneficiary of the Church assets; that since there are no private interests involved, there are no private rights either-hence, no Constitutional rights.
In short, that a church's property rests in the custody of the court, and its leaders are merely trustees who serve at the state's pleasure and are allowed to manage on a day-to-day basis. As Hillel Chodos told Judge Title at the January 10, 1979 hearing on whether or not the receiver should remain: "It's [the Church is] Your Honor's charge. You are the guardian and this Church is your ward." Tapper, the deputy attorney general, added: "The institution itself and all of those who run the institution are standing in a position of trust, the property being truly owned, not by the institution or individuals, but rather the people of California..."
Since a church is not a church but a charitable trust, the logic goes, the leaders may be removed and replaced at will since they are merely "trustees," serving at the will of the state. So Chodos told the court: "... what we are saying is that there are presently trustees that have been allowed to manage the charitable fund on a day-to-day basis.... We believe that essentially those trustees serve at the Court's pleasure and may be replaced with a more trustworthy trustee."
The attorney general's authority includes the power to force the restructuring of any church organization of which he disapproves or which he considers to be too "autocratic." In his view, hierarchically organized churches are effectively prohibited in California.
The state complains that the church in this case is run by one man, its patriarch and leader, Herbert W. Armstrong, and it insists that this be changed.
"It is our understanding," Tapper told the court, "that for many years these institutions have been run rather autocratically. California law provides that there should be opportunities for meetings of the members of a nonprofit organization; and that there should, in connection with these meetings, be opportunities for members to express their will through selecting the people who head the institution. I'm not aware that any of this has occurred in this case.... And the prayer [of the complaint]... has asked that, at some appropriate time, procedures... which will be totally court supervised... [will] put the institution back on more traditional footing..."
By this reasoning, the authority of his holiness the pope, any archbishop, the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, or the hierarchical head of any other similarly organized church may be challenged, disapproved, and set-aside by the State.
Nor does the attorney general need proof or evidence against a church. A simple accusation will do. Claimed Chodos: "If there is the slightest hint or suspicion of wrongdoing, let alone proof positive or proof by a preponderance, it is the Court's duty to see to it there is a worthy trustee installed, that an investigation is made, that the facts are exposed."
Thus the attorney general is not obliged to investigate before acting. If someone accuses church leaders, or if he merely suspects them, the attorney general may move in. Such things as verification, evidence, facts — these are for later, if at all. First come seizure, dispossession, and control.
The term "wrongdoing," in most people's minds, is associated with larceny, embezzlement, criminal fraud, and similar conduct. The attorney general's use of the term, however, is a good deal more elastic, since wrongdoing, in his definition, means paying salaries that he thinks are too high, spending more money on travel than he believes ought to be spent, dealing with companies of which he doesn't approve, contracting for sales of property without his permission, and the like.
"There are various types of misuses," Tapper said. "We all think of diversion of assets as out-and-out theft. But... in trust law there are far higher obligations owed by the people who are in control of properties than they would owe if it was just their own property... So you can get into sophisticated diversions through self-dealing, for example. If one were a fiduciary of this institution and were engaging his own firms and paying his own money that might be a case of self-dealing... There are excesses that can occur in terms of salaries and other financial remunerations….
Under this line of reasoning, the state is authorized to intrude into the private affairs of every church and make any decision it pleases in any area of its activities. The state, for example, may decide how the church spends its money, how much it may pay its ministers, how often those ministers can travel, and where and what sort of accommodations they may stay in or live in. By the attorney general's logic, he might legitimately inquire whether Michelangelo had been the low bidder for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or if the guilds of Florence could have found a less expensive sculptor than Lorenzo Ghiberti to create the bronze doors for the baptistery!
When Tapper told the court that "we will be looking to see that the assets... are being properly used for the purposes of these institutions," he was saying no less than that the state may also decide how the Church carries out its mission. Judge Title, agreeing, pointed to the amounts expended for overseas travel and gifts in pursuit of its primary aim of spreading the Gospel throughout the world, and stated: "These are questions which are open to, I think, some arguments and will have to be examined at the time of trial." The "gifts" referred to are presented to foreign heads of state and other dignitaries.
The state's power even extends to ecclesiastical matters. The court's order of January 19, 1979, gave to the receiver complete authority over the college and foundation in this respect also, the only limitation pertaining to the Church itself. In this latter respect, the court reserved to itself the right to determine what was and was not an ecclesiastical matter.
Furthermore, the court issued a grim warning of how it would deal with any claim that some matters, such as tithing records, welfare payments, ministers' salaries, or similar clerical disbursements were ecclesiastical in character:
"If... I have one or two petitions come into this court with arguments made that the financial records involve ecclesiastical matters, let me assure you that I will consider that evidence of bad faith Judge Title stated. [Emphasis added.]
According to the attorney general, a church, being a public trust, has no private rights to be protected and therefore no basis for resisting the "protective" intervention of the court or the attorney general. Since its leaders, as "trustees," have no interest either and may, in any event, be removed by the court at will, they have no standing or basis either for resisting on behalf of the church or defending its interest. They may even be in violation of their trust if they spend church funds to obtain counsel, since a church is not entitled to counsel other than the court itself or, perhaps, such counsel as might be appointed by a court appointed receiver. Note these arguments by Chodos:
... the charitable fund is the... subject matter of this proceeding. It isn't a party in the usual sense. It is in Your Honor's Safekeeping. It has no interest to protect against the Court. The Church as a charitable trust has no interest to protect here [Emphasis added.] It is Your Honor's responsibility to do whatever needs to be done to preserve it... and protect the assets and records, and no one has any basis to resist that intervention.
What I'm suggesting is this Church doesn't need a lawyer to help this Court protect its assets. [Emphasis added.]
I don't think the Church has a single interest that needs counsel before Your Honor. In my view, the Church ought to welcome the supervision of the court. [Emphasis added.] While on the one hand the state contends that the Church's members must, by law, elect the Church's leaders, the state on the other hand insists they are without right or power to say how their contributions shall be spent and have no standing to intervene or otherwise question any action taken by the attorney general. The charitable-trust theory bars them from any interest or rights in or to the subject of the trust, which they have created! Thus:
Under the law, once people donate money to a charitable organization, they no longer have standing to direct how it is to be used. It must be used in accordance with the laws of the State of California. And under those laws, although the property is held by the charitable organization, it is held for the benefit of the public at large.
Judge Title clearly agrees. When counsel for the Church argued that six dissident former members of the Church should not, through the state or otherwise, be permitted to overrule the wishes of the 100,000 faithful members in good standing, the court admonished him: "Their wishes are immaterial, counsel."
How sturdy is this foundation stone on which the attorney general's entire case rests?
A rereading of Corporation Code Section 9505, under which he acted, will reveal that it does not deal with charitable trusts but rather nonprofit corporations that hold property subject to public or charitable trust.
There are ninety-four words in the section. Read them beginning to end, back to front, or from the middle either way. You will not find the word "church." You will not find the words "religious organization."
The attorney general had to discover a way to squeeze a church, somehow or other, into that section of the law. Obviously, it was not enough to find that a religious organization may hold some property that is subject to a trust. To accomplish his aim of placing a church under the canopy of that law, he performed a disappearing act worthy of a Houdini: he simply took a church and made it vanish. It reappeared, no longer a church, but — by the attorney general's definition — as a charitable trust.
But the argument fails because California's legislature obviously never intended that the charitable-trust concept be applied in any such sweeping fashion to churches, since it did not merely omit mention of churches or religious organizations in Section 9505, undoubtedly assuming that no one would be foolish enough to import so shocking a concept into this section by implication. In the comprehensive law it did enact with respect to charitable trusts, the "Uniform Supervision Of Trustees For Charitable Purposes Act," the legislature expressed itself specifically on the point.
This law sets up a regulatory and supervisory scheme for charitable trusts, which makes them liable to periodical examination by the attorney general, and requires them to register and file regular detailed reports. If churches were viewed as charitable trusts by the legislature, and were liable to examination or under an obligation to account, the legislature surely would have included them in the embrace of this act.
But it did not.
Instead, the legislature specifically excepted all churches and religious organizations from all of the provisions of the act and, consequently, from any obligation to account, or from any liability to examination by the attorney general or any other state official. * Clearly the legislature had in mind the constitutional sanctions and understood quite well that separation of Church and State meant just exactly that.
Furthermore, the charitable-trust concept, while it has received mention from the courts in connection with churches, has been applied only in specific and very limited situations, as, for example, an aid to determining the most appropriate distribution of the property of a church that was voluntarily dissolving. It has never before been held or even suggested that the charitable trust doctrine could be invoked to uphold or justify the sweeping invasion of church affairs successfully accomplished by the attorney general and countenanced by the trial court in this case.
In the words of Dr. Melton: "The attempt to redefine the Worldwide Church of God as a 'public trust' and its property as 'in a sense public' is the most flagrant attack on the freedom of religious institutions in this country in many years... The effect of the actions of [deputy attorney general] Tapper has been to place all churches under state control and put strict limits on how they can spend their money and acquire and dispose of property."
Had the attorney general waited until January 1, 1980, his action probably would not have gotten off the ground. Even the Honorable Jerry Pacht would have been unable to help his good friend Hillel Chodos. And thereby hangs another odd aspect of this very odd story.
For Section 9505 no longer exists, having been wiped off the statute books by the Califomia legislature. The new law is vaguely similar to the old one — but there is one crucial difference: it uses the words "reasonable cause." This means that government officials now cannot move against an institution merely on information and belief (legalese for gossip and rumor) that something illegal was going on, as they could under Section 9505, but only if a reasonable cause for their intervention exists. In the minds of constitutional lawyers, "reasonable cause" means "probable cause"; thus the attorney general would have had to go through a legal process very close to the requirements under criminal law, which do not permit an individual to be arrested on the basis of rumor alone, Legally, since the action was taken under the old law, the suit continues. Although the new legislation puts more teeth into procedural aspects, which offer a greater degree of protection to churches, it is no less in contravention of the First Amendment; and as such its constitutionality will be fought just as vigorously.
* Government Code Section 12583.
Tales More Fearsome Than fanciful — 3
The Attorney General Who Wanted to Be King Once upon a time in the golden land of California, an election was held. A gentleman called Duke promised all the voters of the realm that he would uphold law and order and be tougher on criminals than the lady who was running against him for attorney general. The people believed him. He was elected.
He opened the door of the attorney general's of office and looked inside. Little gray mice skittered about playing tag around the chairs neatly arranged in front of a big brown desk. One occasionally ran up the grandfather clock in the corner, and ran down again when it struck one. Spiders busied themselves weaving webs in the windows. Piles of dusty legal papers covered the tables.
It was a very quiet, sleepy, dreamy place. Apparently the attorney general had almost nothing to do. Evelle, the previous attorney general, was able to spend most of the year campaigning for governor.
On the top of the big brown desk, Duke noticed a lot of figures scrawled by fingers in the thick layer of dust. "Oh yes, these must be Evelle's figures," thought Duke. "He must have been figuring up his pensions and seeing how nicely a governor's pension would round everything out.
"I do hope he can get along without that one," Duke mused, as he pulled the big leather chair back from the big brown desk and sat down. It was very comfortable. The big padded arms seemed to just reach out and pull him into the soft upholstery.
He eased his big feet up onto the top of the big brown desk. Slowly he leaned back, pondering what it would be like as attorney general. It was very quiet. He folded his hands over his stomach and closed his eyes. He dozed off into dreamland.
Soon he was aware of being in the castle. Royal paper-shufflers were coming and going. The valet was fastening the royal robes about him. Duke wiped some dust from the royal crown, perched it atop his royal locks, and strode down the hall. The crown clattered to the floor. "Got to get that thing fixed... it never stays up there where it belongs," he muttered, as the valet scurried to pick it up and carry it along behind.
The royal deputies were meeting down the hall trying to figure out how to get more control over the churches. They were also trying to figure out what was leaving banana peelings all over the place. Some observers had gotten the idea that the king was running a royal monkey farm on the side, and this distressed them. Even "C" students, as all the deputies were, knew that such rumors were embarrassing to the king.
The king entered and the meeting was called to order. First the deputies explained to the king about the trouble they were having ruling over the people ever since the U.S. Constitution was adopted. No one bowed down to them anymore. People didn't jump when they said to jump. In fact, the people didn't even call them by the royal titles they liked.
Hundreds of years ago the king had been in charge of everything in the realm. He established churches to keep the people under his control and tell them what to think and what to do.
Anybody who disagreed with the king and wanted to worship God some other way than that approved by the king was often tortured, beaten, whipped, and put in jail. Sometimes the king even had people killed if their religion was different from the one he established.
The king appointed a Lord High Commissioner — to supervise and watch over the churches to make sure they did exactly as the king wanted and paid their taxes on time into the king's treasury.
But when the United States was established as a nation some two hundred years ago, there was to be no king anymore. And the greatest men of the nation realized that there could be no real freedom and liberty if the government were allowed to regulate religion or establish churches or prohibit people from freely worshipping God as they chose.
Some of the people of the realm who did not like God or churches were angry because the government could not tax the churches. They did not think it was fair for churches not to pay taxes, especially since the government could not tell them what to teach. After all, the king seemed to have a hand in regulating almost all other activities in the realm.
If the king could tell the churches what to teach, that would be different. Then he could use them to convince the people to support all the wonderful plans he and his deputies had for them. Then the churches would serve some good purpose, and maybe it wouldn't be that bad if they didn't pay taxes. But, to let them teach what they pleased was too much. Only the king has enough wisdom to tell people what they should believe. Or so people who fancy themselves to be kings seem to think!
Lord Abbot spoke up. He was appointed keeper of the charitable trusts and felt that the churches should be called charitable trusts so he could regulate them. His speech was very eloquent, and greatly pleased the king.
"We can no longer permit the churches to set their own beliefs and spend people's money without supervision of His Benevolent Majesty's deputies. After all, they claim the Lord in heaven directs them. But we all know that is mere superstition and nonsense. They are really bamboozling all the people and stealing their money, my Sire. And that is something only the government, under Your Highness, has the right to do. We must find a way to regulate these churches."
The other deputies clapped loudly and jumped to their feet. Shouts of "Bravo! Bravo!" echoed through the hall. The deputies, even though they were "C" students, knew that if some big new projects like this could be started they could hire more deputies. They could ask the royal treasury to give them more of the people's money and how to increase their control over the people's lives.
Little Lord Lawrence spoke up and informed the king that they had already begun to sue one of the churches. If they could win more control over this church, then the other churches would have to do what they said, too.
"Tell me about it," said Duke.
"Well," began Lawrence, which seemed to be the standard way to begin any story among "C" students, "we found that there was a small church in the realm called the Church of God that was rather unpopular. Its beliefs were different from most of the other churches. We thought maybe the other churches wouldn't notice or wouldn't mind if we raided them. The leader is very old and living out in the desert. Some of the younger leaders wanted to set themselves over the church and change its teachings to be more like other churches. We thought that this was the ideal church to pick on first so we could begin our plan to regulate and supervise and control all the churches and begin using all that church money for the good of the people, Sire.
"A chubby barrister named Chomos agreed to be the holy light bearer in this action on behalf of the king. He has come up with the idea of putting the church into receivership — eaning that we could set somebody up to take over all the church's money, property and records.
"Then we could go through the records and try to find something wrong so we could get rid of the church leaders and have an excuse to regulate all churches more closely. And by having our friend controlling the money, he could pay all the expenses out of the church treasury."
"But wouldn't the members of the church object?" asked Duke.
"We have them all figured out as dumb sheep," lisped Lawrence as he stuffed another bite of banana into his cheek. "They won't give us any trouble. In fact, they will probably think we are there to help them. That would be a good story to tell. We'll tell them that all we want to do is straighten things up and make things right. After all, if they can't trust their government to do that, whom can they trust?"
"Truer words were never said through falser teeth," exclaimed Duke ecstatically. "But how are you going to get the court to permit or authorize such an action?"
"We've already got that problem solved, Your Highness. We went to a judge named Patch down at the courthouse and met with him privately in his chambers.
"First we sneaked in and glued together the pages in his law books, so he would have to ask us what his powers were, what he could do and what he could not do. As he looked over our moving papers, we made sure to keep them moving so he could not really tell what we had in mind. I told him that the church was selling property below its value and ripping of` the membership.
"We made the whole affair seem like a bowl of spiders to him," Lawrence continued. "Just for insurance, Mr. Chomos deftly reached over and slid His Honor's wig down over his eyes while I leaned my elbow on the scales of justice.
"Mr. Chomos also swore that no damage would be done to the church when we raided it, installed ex-Judge Bounty as the receiver, confiscated the records, and paid everyone $150 per hour from church funds. The judge said that sounded reasonable, but that he hoped he didn't have to explain why.
"Judge Patch eventually saw the need for some swift action, but he said we would have to file the case before he would make an official ruling.
"We told him that we had intended to file the case as soon as we found a judge who would rule the way we wanted. So, Mr. Chomos went right out to the judge's table and prepared the case and the court order. We filed the case and got the judge to sign the order. He handed the whole bowl of spiders over to ex-Judge Bounty, the receiver."
"Wait a minute," mumbled Duke, his eyes fluttering slightly and rolling up into his head. "I admit it has been quite a while since I was in law school. But aren't you supposed to file the case FIRST and then see a judge when your case comes up?"
"Ordinarily that is the way it is done, Sire," admitted Lord Lawrence. "But you are taking a chance to do it that way. You might get the wrong judge — one who knew the law and remembered that the Constitution, with the Bill of Rights, is the highest law of the land."
"This way justice is greatly speeded up and the outcome is easier to predict," chimed in Chomos, who had come in and was sitting on the table. "Since this case is unusual anyway, we thought it would be better to just make up a new set of rules as we went along."
Lord Lawrence took another bite of banana and exclaimed proudly that he had already fixed things up with the media by accusing the church leaders of pilfering millions of dollars, selling church property below its value, and destroying records.
"Isn't it unusual to make all those charges BEFORE beginning the investigation?" asked Duke.
"That is the beauty of this case, Sire," exclaimed Chomos. "We are sailing in new legal waters unsullied by anybody for two hundred years. Just trust us, and everything will work out all right."
With that assurance, Duke was able to meet the reporters and assure them that he was satisfied his deputies were acting in the best interests of the people.
As the sun slowly rowed its way up into the heavens through the wispy mist over the campus on January 3, all the king's horses and all the king's men assembled for the great raid. About midmorning they came galloping up to the Hall of Administration and surrounded it.
"Don't anybody fall into the moat," advised Lord Lawrence as he nibbled another banana.
They gently jostled the ex-judge receiver, as he had fallen asleep in the saddle on the way over.
As the deputies ran round and round the building, one finally hollered, "Over here! Over here! I found the door! The door is over here!"
"Give that man a banana!" exclaimed Lord Lawrence gleefully.
The posse barged into the Administration Building hollering You're captured! You're captured."' to bewildered secretaries.
"You'd better do as we say," growled a deputy, shoving a banana into his pocket so it looked like a
gun. Ex Judge Bounty, declared that he was taking over, as hobbled along, balancing the bowl of spiders from Judge Patch on the top of his head. He let everyone know that he had been appointed as receiver, and that this church was what he was going to receive. He demanded to be let into the executive offices. After several hours of bawling and threatening, someone showed him how to open the door.
Once inside, the deputies lost no time in setting up camp and in scouting around. They had heard there was gold in the vault. But where was the vault? Where were the records? Where was the great hoard of cash and all the other stuff that was supposed to be hidden there? They ripped open drawers and file cabinets, spilling papers everywhere.
"Aha, what's this?" blurted Lawrence. "Whatever it is, it has got me. Let me go!" Lawrence had accidentally got his necktie caught in the paper shredder and it had pulled him in up to the chin. He promptly assigned a deputy to spend the rest of the pasting his tie back together.
"I want that shredder taken as evidence," ordered Lawrence.
"Evidence of what?" asked an investigator, who had been assigned to carry the sack of bananas.
"It is called maintaining an attractive nuisance, I think — you know, something dangerous that neighborhood kids might stumble into," was the reply. "Wake me up if you find any gold," yawned ex-Judge Bounty as he curled up on top of a desk. Cartons and boxes of records were bundled up and trundled off for the chief to examine downtown. It seems that he likes to read, but is too cheap to buy magazines. He gets a kick out of reading private memos and personnel information. The next day, ex-Judge Bounty and Lord Lawrence, "the
Lip," assembled the workers together and told them if they didn't welcome the posse, they would all be fired. Apparently they were hoping for a big party. "With lots of bananas," added Lawrence.
The church people thought, "This isn't right. Perhaps they have the wrong address. The zoo is a few miles to the west
The people knew that a terrible mistake had been made. And they didn't like having to clean up all the banana peelings. So they went to court to have Receiver Bounty find some other place for his naps.
Judge Little presided. His wig also seemed to slip down over first one eye and the other. At first he told the church people he didn't know anything about any Constitutions and didn't want to argue about that. This made Lawrence and Chomos very happy.
The Church people tried to tell the court that the Constitution gave them rights and that the posse had no business camping in their buildings and taking over their money and threatening to fire them. But Chomos got up and said forcefully, "The church has no rights. Your Honor. That was what they called the judge, though it was difficult to figure out why.
The barrister went on to say that English common law for centuries had recognized that the king had the right to appoint a commissioner over the churches to collect revenue and run things so the king would be happy.
The church people tried to tell the judge that this was not medieval England. But when the judge saw Lord Lawrence and Barrister Chomos and their armor and banana-bearers and horsemen, he said it looked like old England to him and said the law would stand. The king had the right to take over the church if he wanted and to look through all the records and handle all the money and even fire the leaders of the church and set up new ones.
Another strange part of all this was that the judge seemed to know exactly what he was going to say and do and how he was going to rule even before the proceedings got underway. That was how he kept things moving through his court quickly. When asked why he only listened to one side before issuing his orders, he said, "It is much less confusing that way. And anyway, the king certainly wouldn't do anything wrong." He also remembered that Judge Patch had given his friend Judge Bounty the bowl of spiders. And that was enough evidence for him.
Judge Bounty lost no time in taking over. He rode right down to the bank and opened an account for himself and took the church's money. When the bank saw the ragtag army, it panicked and also took some more of the church's money. Then many of the church's checks could not be cashed. Some of the poor widows could not get their support money. Some of the ministers couldn't cash their paychecks. The church's bills could not be paid and many people were very unhappy. But Judge Bounty went back to the offices and took another nap.
He also hired a private army to guard the vaults, rest rooms and anything else that looked like it might be the place where gold or records were stored. The judge spent so much time taking naps that he had to hire someone else to run the church for him. He found such a man in Azel Sheridan, who reportedly just came back from the last Crusade I the Holy Land, beating back the heather from Mount Moriah and looking for the silver chalice and holy grail and all of that. "Yes," thought Judge Bounty, "he is just the right man."
The church people did not like the king's men taking over their church. They knew that this was not ancient England, regardless of what Judge Bounty and Duke's men thought. And obviously the Constitution and Bill of Rights must have been
Passed after Judge little had graduated, because he hadn't seemed to have hear of it. It was a time for action!
One morning very early, before Judge Bounty got out of bed, the church people all went into the Hall of Administration and locked the doors. When Azel Sheridan got there, he couldn't get in. Surprised, he exclaimed, "they can't do this to ME!" It seemed that he always spelled that word with capital letters. For two more days the church people sang and had meetings and kept the doors locked. By this time, Azel and Bounty had called for the Army. But they were afraid to break in and arrest the people because there were TV cameras there and they didn't want everyone all over the nation to see what they were up to. After all, most people had heard of the Constitution and would immediately see that something funny was going on.
Finally Judge Bounty began to wave the white flag and agreed to move out of the headquarters building. The people were very happy about this. They were even happier a few weeks later when the judge started to notice he was feeling ill and would not be able to keep up his grueling schedule of three naps a day in his office. Some of the people wondered if it was the spiders that were making the judge ill. They had never heard of anyone eating spiders before. Why couldn't the judge eat bananas like lord Lawrence and his men?
After Judge Bounty quit, Lord Lawrence went to court to try to get Judge Little to let him run things, and look around in all the church's books and records. The judge thought that would be a good idea. But Lawrence looked pale when the judge said he thought he should pay for this amusement., The judge said it was only fair. "After all, it costs money to go to the movies too, you know, and those who are having the fun should pay the bill." Still, the judge and Lord Lawrence could not be persuaded that they needed a newer set of law books — ones which had the Constitution and Bill of Rights. So the church appealed the judge's order and this made him very angry. He probably knew that the higher judges would have
The newer law books and would know about the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. But, for now, Lord Lawrence and all his playmates have to play at their own house. Judge Bounty has to take his naps at his own house. And the king's castle has been very quiet lately, except for an occasional grunt as somebody slips on another banana peel.
We wonder how this story is going to end. Will Duke wake up? Was this only a bad dream? Does he really know what kind of games his deputies are playing? Is he really running a monkey farm after all?
Does he really want to be king, ruling churches through a kin's commissioner as under old English common law? Or does he just want to be governor? Will the churches wake up and see that the bureaucrats are trying to establish control over religion and do away with the Bill of Rights? Or will se all end up in a "Big Brother Society" as serfs and peons bowing down to the royal bureaucrats?