Pastor's Report Staff  

   (Editor's note: The following two statements were sent to Mr. Rader by Dr. J. Gordon Melton, Director of the Institute For the Study of American Religion. Mr. Rader asked that they be reprinted as an example of one who, though of a different biblical belief and orientation, understands the gravity of the issues and is supportive of the Church's efforts to defend itself from the unwarranted and unconstitutional attacks by the Attorney General of the state of California.)


   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 religion and the independent status of religious institutions in this country in many years, said Dr. J. Gordon Melton, Director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion. Dr. Melton, who is also the Chicago representative of the Alliance for the Preservation of Religious Liberty (APRL), made his statement following a conversation with Mr. Ellis LaRavia, recently placed in charge of the Worldwide Church of God headquarters operation, and Church attorney Ralph Helge.

   The effect of the actions of Mr. Tapper, the assistant attorney general in Pasadena, California, has been to place all churches under state control and put strict limits on how they can spend money and acquire and dispose of property. The possibility that such precedent-setting efforts will gain some credence is heightened by the public reaction to the tragedy of Guyana. Such backlash effects must not be permitted to take place.

   A complete copy of Dr. Melton's statement is enclosed. Dr. Melton is the author of two definitive works on American religious groups: THE DIRECTORY OF RELIGIOUS GROUPS IN THE UNITED STATES (Garland, 1977) and THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN RELIGIOUS (Consortium, 1978). As the Director of ISAR, he has followed the life of the Worldwide Church of God for many years. In 1977 he joined the newly formed Alliance for the Preservation of Religious Liberty, which has initiated an action program related to the infringements on religious freedom focused on the small religious bodies of America. The Alliance was particularly active in opposing the process called If deprograming."


   In my capacity as Director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion, I have been an observer of the Worldwide Church of God for many years. During the 1970s it has continued to be controversial, strife-ridden and rent with several schisms. However, until the last two weeks, its problems have been internal and reflective of growth, the natural dissent that tends to arise in religious bodies over doctrines and practices, and polemics due to the Church's distinct positions contra mainline Christian beliefs.

   In recent weeks this situation has changed drastically. Internal dissent has been brought into the court, and based upon as yet unproven accusations, the State of California's attorney general's office has entered one area of church dispute on the side of a group of former members of the Church. The grounds for the entrance of the office into this ecclesiastical dispute is the unheard of opinion of Assistant Attorney General Lawrence Tapper that the assets of religious bodies are somehow "public" property, and in the interests of the people he may seize and examine the church records to determine if money is being properly spent.

   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 religion and the independent status of religious institutions in this country in many years. The intent of Mr. Tapper's action would extend the authority of the government into the private life of a religious institution, and in open disregard of the Constitution, set limits upon how a Church chooses to extend its mission, spread its message, obtain and dispose of property and, by extention, what it believes (since action is the natural result of beliefs).

   I personally could not be a member of the Worldwide Church of God. It has a theocratic system of government which places all authority in one man, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. The doctrine of the Church denies major Protestant perspectives on the Trinity, grace and salvation. In the past the Church has tended to be separatist; it has denounced other Christian bodies; it has seen itself as the unique instrument of God in today's world. These beliefs, which make it impossible for me to be a part of it, have also been a major factor in making the Church an unpopular institution in many quarters.

   But possibly its unpopularity is the central issue. Would the attorney general's office attempt such unprecedented action against more established religious bodies such as the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church or the Protestant Episcopal Church? Yet, if the actions of the past two weeks are allowed to go unchallenged and are sustained in the present adjudication, such action will declare all churches, synagogues and religious institutions, operating in the State of California, public property and subject to state-dictated limitation.

   I am a pastor within the United Methodist Church. My congregation is in no sense a public corporation nor are its assets public property. As a pastor, I am in no wise accountable to the state's authority (beyond that, of course, of any citizen were he to commit illegal actions) for how I administer the Church's affairs. I am not accountable to former members, either those who might have voluntarily withdrew or any who might have been put out of the Church by due process. I am accountable, my congregation is accountable, only to its present members, the bishop placed over us, and his duly appointed representatives, and the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church.

   One can not help but feel that this ludicrous action of Mr. Tapper and his associates are a rebound from the Guyana tragedy of the People's Temple. Not only are some of the accusations similar (hoarding gold) but the vehemence of the reaction to unproven and now (demonstratively proven) unfounded charges indicates that advantage is being taken of an unusually hostile climate of opinion.

   We can not allow either the unpopularity of the Worldwide Church of God or the Guyana fallout to silence our voice. I call upon all committed to preserving the integrity of our religious institutions and the freedom to propagate our beliefs, set our own priorities, and participate in the American religious scene, to join forces; at this hour. Raise the hue and cry. Let all know that we will not stand by and allow our freedoms to be subverted.



Suite 955 West Tower
9100 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, California 90212
Telephone (213) 274-8902

February 21, 1979

Romain 0. Nelsen, Esq,
Lynberg & Yelsen
Suite 1000, 800 West Sixth Street
Los Angeles, CA, 90017


   You may or may not be aware that, since January 2, 1979, my time has been devoted exclusively to my duties as Receiver in the case of People of the State of California vs. Worldwide Church of God, L.A.S.C. No. C267607.

   Unfortunately, my physical limitations have made it necessary for me to resign from this arduous assignment.

   This is to advise that, effective on or about March 1, 1979, I shall once again be available, as my calendar permits, for ratters involving Orders of Reference, Special Master assignments, arbitration and appointments as consultant for Federal, State and local Governmental agencies.

Very truly yours,


(Editor's Note: This letter shows the original receiver, ex-judge Steven S. Weisman, is currently soliciting the entire legal profession for work — considered unconscionable by most in the profession. Upon inquiry, it was learned that he can be hired for $75.00 per hour, having asked $150 per hour from the Work of God!)

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Pastor General's ReportMarch 19, 1979Vol 3 No. 9