As you will recall, Judge Julius Title stayed his order to lift the receivership until March 1. He directed the Attorney General and the attorneys for the Church to submit proposed orders which he would consider on that date in formulating and issuing an injunctive order. It was to be an order that would provide that the Attorney General could continue his examination of the Church at the State's expense. As it turned out, the proposed order submitted by the Attorney General was largely the basis for the final court order. At the March 1 hearing before Judge Title, points were objected to by the Church's attorneys where excessive powers were requested by the Attorney General. Few changes were made to the Attorney General is proposed order by the judge prior to the hearing, and few changes were made during the hearing as a result of arguments by both sides. In actual fact, more than just a means of continuing a financial audit to investigate whether or not allegations against the defendants were true, this order differs very little from the receivership which we were under.
The Attorney General's order, which Judge Title seems to be accepting largely intact, is disruptive to the Church's operations and permits the Attorney General to have a computer terminal of his own with which to plug into all our computer files! (However, our lawyers successfully argued against allowing access to our membership lists. It permits a free-wheeling and unregulated search of all church records (even those not of a financial nature and therefore outside the scope of the lawsuit). This search would cover twenty years of records and would permit the Attorney General to have " first priority" over all our records irrespective of our ordinary business workload in data processing and accounting. He wants the right to examine and copy all documents of every kind including constitutionally and statutorily privileged and protected documents all of which would then become public records.
In a press conference held by Mr. Rader in his office Thursday afternoon, March 1st, he stated that "the Attorney General's proposed order is unprecedented, unlawful, and intolerable to the basic religious and constitutional rights of the Church and its members and incompatible with the continuity of Church operations... it would put Det further and7 exorbitant compliance costs on the Church.
"All of this is the more reprehensible because there has been absolutely no showing of urgency or need for the unprecedented powers which the Attorney General would be given. Moreover, although the Receiver's auditors have been examining the Church's books and records for nearly eight weeks and expended thousands of dollars of Church funds in their review of Church records, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing or misappropriation of funds as fraudulently alleged in the complaint."
Still at the Procedural Stage
At the present time we are at the procedural stage of the lawsuit. In spite of the continuing frantic and slanderous charges leveled at us in the hearings by deputized attorney Chodos, there is no trial of the facts in this particular forum. The judge is not ruling in favor or opposition to those facts. Facts will be separated from accusations only when the trial begins (if indeed it does) at some point in the future.
Mr. Rader assured the press that at this point the Church will do everything it can via judicial means to protect its rights which have been violated in this heavy—handed and extraordinary action which began first through the receiver and then the court order.
A Classic Church—State Confrontation
It is clear that God's Church is engaged in a classic first amendment confrontation of church and state. We have been saying this from the beginning. Mr. Warren Abbott, Assistant Attorney General in charge of overseeing charitable trusts, was quoted in a Los Angeles Times article concerning our case. He said, "Let's find out what the law is. We'd like a decision on whether 9505 (the section of the state Corporation Code that empowers the attorney general to oversee charitable trusts) does apply to churches. " This is an admission by the Attorney General's office that they want to see if the state does have the right to examine, supervise and control churches!
We have been receiving offers of help from other religious groups. This is because this very obvious threat to freedom of religion in California could set a serious precedent for future actions by the State Attorney General, Mr. Rader said. However, there is a time and a place for these people to make their stand. We already have one amicus curiae brief in the California Supreme Court. When we have a petition for a hearing granted by the Supreme Court, he indicated others may very well jump in at that time. But none want to argue this matter before Judge Title. Apparently he doesn't want to concern himself with the Constitution, as he plainly indicated again March 1 when he told our attorneys he "didn't want to talk about Constitutional rights." So we must first have a forum where there are people who are responsive to the arguments that are being made — where the first amendment means something. It means something, generally speaking, when you go up above lower courts.
According to Mr. Rader, twenty years from now we 11 all look back and realize that this was much more important than a clash between individuals or business entities. This truly is a classic confrontation between a sovereign state and a church. And the issues, rights and privileges at stake will affect each of us as individuals far more than many realize at this point. For this reason, Mr. Rader told the press on March 1, the Church will do its best to educate the public because we feel, and rightly so, that we have a duty to perform. He told them, "We feel God has placed us, for His purpose — He works in mysterious ways — in the vanguard fighting for religious freedom. We will be advertising nationally — in the press, television and radio — that church property has, in effect, been confiscated in California."
He went on to explain, "Over ninety percent of our members live outside the state of California. How would you feel if you were living in Ohio and sending several thousand dollars a year to the Worldwide Church of God and then you hear that the state claims it has control of that money and that that is a public trust belonging to the people of California. Well, this is stirring up our members and they are involving their neighbors. And their neighbors are involving their congressmen and their congressmen are involving their governors. And this will be made a national issue."
It was announced that we have hired the finest firm of civil rights lawyers in the country, in the opinion of Mr. Rader and others. These people will do everything they can to see to it that our civil rights are protected and to see that those who have conspired to deprive us of those civil rights are made to respond in damages.
The Church very plainly must keep all of its constitutional rights, privileges and immunities sacrosanct. This does not mean we would not allow an examination to take place. Mr. Rader assured the press that we have always, and will always, permit an examination to take place that is a legitimate one.
The Audit Could Go On
Although the Church has steadfastly denied that the Attorney General may conduct an examination under California Corporation Code, Section 9505, we have at all times expressed a willingness to permit a legitimate examination of the Church I s non—religious, non-ecclesiastical affairs. A " legitimate examination" means the kind of examination which the Internal Revenue Service or any other governmental agency normally conducts, which includes a) a prior appointment with the entity, b) delineation of areas of inquiry, c) request to examine (without copying or removing) pertinent documents, and d) minimum interference with the conduct of the entity's normal affairs.
Our lawyers have argued that the scope of the audit should be limited to the scope of the complaint (lawsuit) and certainly not into every nook and cranny of our buildings and records which will violate the privacy of church matters we. are entitled to maintain. This extra-ordinary attack on God's Church reflects a frantic effort by the Attorney General to engage in a " fishing expedition" in the hopes of detecting some evidence of wrongdoing to justify a claim for fees and expenses which the law does not permit in any event.
If the investigation had been initiated without fanfare and in an ordinary manner, none of the tremendous waste of time and money would have occurred (not to mention the blow dealt to the Church's reputation). If the Attorney General has merely over-reacted because he was misled and acted on the sincere belief that something was truly wrong, Mr. Rader said he should (especially after these eight weeks of intense auditing) quietly and without further fanfare leave our premises.
One final note as we go to press: The injunctive order was signed last week by Judge Title as expected. The attorneys for the Church filed an appeal on that order Friday, March 2 in Superior Court. This appeal causes the order to be "stayed" (a postponement or delay in legal action or proceeding). We are hoping this action will render the Church the proper relief we are seeking. And so, the wheels of "justice" grind away.
—Pastor's Report Staff