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Tuesday, February 8, 2011
The Truth Shall Make You Free: Chapter 8 Beginnings of Lawsuit
Chapter 8 Basis For Action
(pg 97) A couple of weeks prior to Garner Ted’s permanent removal by his father, Mark Armstrong traveled to New York to visit with some friends. As he said, “I have to get out of Pasadena for awhile and get away from all of this. Maybe by the time I get back in a week or so things will have settled down. I just can’t take it out here right now.” Prior to his leaving the New York area, Mark came to our home one Sunday evening and visited with Paula and me for a couple of hours. He told us an incredible story. He said that Stanley Rader was taking control of the Church and, n order to do so, Garner Ted Armstrong had to be out of the way. He said that some of the top ministers at headquarters were either involved with Rader or, if not involved, were standing by watching things happen, hoping they could move into the vacuum that would be left after Garner Ted’s removal. Mark said that Rader and his grandfather were spending millions of dollars just to entertain the world leaders. Osamu Gotoh, according to Mark, had spent several hundred thousand dollars in one year in a questionable manner. He said that the Church had paid all of Rader’s mortgage and tax payments on his home and also picked up all of his personal household expenses. Mark said, “It was bad enough before, but now that Grandpa is married to that fat Ramona, things are really crazy. Not too long ago he spent $200,000 of his own money to buy jewelry and furs for her and then reimbursed himself from the first (pg 98) tithe fund. My dad knows all about that. It really happened. That’s the kind of thing going on.
We then discussed the path that the Church may take with Herbert Armstrong again having such dominance over the organization. Mark said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if pretty soon Grandpa’s got the Church back into the Dark Ages on the healing doctrine. Of course, he won’t teach against divorce any longer, now that he’s married to Ramona, who was divorced. But pretty soon he will be declaring it a sin to go to doctors. He doesn’t want the people in the Church to go to doctors or take medicine, but if it weren’t for all the pills and medicine and drugs that he’s been taking since the heart attack, he wouldn’t even be alive now. He tells the Church one thing, and does something different himself.”
Paula then said, “It’s amazing that he’s alive at all, let alone in such a good state of recovery at this time. We always thought that God had worked a miracle to allow him to live longer, but now I really wonder. What do you really think of his condition at this time?” Mark then said, “Well, he’s really coming along quite well, considering what he’s been through. His liver is pretty bad, you know. He’s got whatever it is you get from drinking too much wine and cognac. Boy, that’s a real problem with him. He tells the Church people to drink in moderation, and for years he’s been getting himself smashed just about every night.”
Again, Paula and I were both shocked to hear such things about the man who represented himself as God’s apostle, our religious leader, the man who has brought us much truth. Yet the degree of hypocrisy here was almost more than one could handle. I said, “Do you really mean to say that your grandfather actually gets (pg 99) drunk?” To which Mark replied, “Oh yeah, I’ve even helped carry him to his bed when he was plain wiped out from too much booze.”
This was quit a bit to handle for Paula and I, and while Mark was telling us all of this, I was wondering, “How much can I believe? After all, he is Garner Ted Armstrong’s son and is bound to be somewhat biased in his thinking on this entire situation.” I had to realize, however, that allowing for the close personal interest on Mark’s part, that a great degree of what he said must still be true. If that were the case, I just had to know more, and although I didn’t know what I would do about it, I told Mark that I wanted to have any documentation of the claim that he had been making regarding the financial abuses on the part of Rader and Herbert Armstrong.
On the Sabbath of the fast, just prior to Garner Ted’s final removal, Paula and I decided not to fast. We felt that to do so would place us in an attitude of being in concert with Herbert Armstrong, which we knew, was a totally wrong attitude. At Church services I began discussing the situation with Ron Quinlan, who I had known since coming into the Church. Ron is a young man in his twenties and is associated with his father in a heating/oil distribution business in Staten Island, New York. He had taken the past several months off from work in order to attend a year at Ambassador College to take special courses in theology. Having just completed a semester, he had now returned back East. Ron told me that this latest crisis was of course a major one and that only Church members in the Pasadena area and students who are attending Ambassador College are aware of the fact that the Church seems to be in a constant state of turmoil and crisis. He said there always seemed to be a great deal of in-fighting and political intrigue going on within the organization. He said, “If I weren’t so sure that the doctrines of the Church were true because I’ve proven them, I would wonder if this was God’s Church. You certainly could never prove it by the conduct of the people out at headquarters.”
(pg 100)The following week I received a phone call from the minister Richard Frankel. By this time, through a phone call from Mark Armstrong, I was aware that Garner Ted had been permanently removed and disfellowshipped by Herbert Armstrong. Frankel told me that I was speaking to people at Church in a manner to cause division among the brethren. He said that he received several reports from people that I was causing trouble. I thought to myself, “Is this the Church of God, or is this some Communist country where every time you voice your opinion, someone runs to the local leader with a complete report on what is being said?” Mindless blind loyalty, hardly the spirit of Jesus Christ.
I told Frankel exactly what I had said to the people. I told him “It looks to me as though Rader is taking control of the Church. He now has Garner Ted out of the way and controls Herbert Armstrong. Everything that I said to the people last Sabbath is factual. I have the information straight from Mark Armstrong and he said that there is proof.” He responded, “Are you going to believe everything you were told by that young twit, Mark. He’s Ted’s son. He’s going to spread what ever lies he has to, to gain support for his father.” I again reminded Frankel that the basic facts were true even allowing for the fact Mark may be somewhat prejudiced by his family involvement. Frankel’s response was incredible, he said, “Even if everything you say is one hundred percent true, the fact still remains that you said things that caused people to get upset, and anyone who says anything to cause people to get upset is guilty of causing division among the brethren. If you do any more of this, I will have no choice but to remove you from the Body of Christ and mark and disfellowshipped you.”
Could I believe my ears? A man who’s supposedly a minister of (pg 101) Jesus Christ talking to me in this way? I told him, “You could throw me out of the Church if you want but you cannot remove me from the Body of Christ. Only Christ can do that.” I did promise to say no more at that time, however, I wanted to stay around a while to see what would develop. During this period of time, Paula absolutely refused to attend Church any longer. She said that she would feel like a hypocrite by doing so and that she wanted no further part of the Church. I decided, however, to continue attending to see what might develop.
The Sabbath following the fast promised to be interesting, as I was anticipating the announcement of Garner Ted’s final removal. I decided to attend and keep my mouth shut. A brief announcement was read very matter-of-factly and the letter from Herbert Armstrong sent his son was read to the congregation. There was no further comment. After services I found that I could hardly believe the general conduct of the members. They were discussing everything but Garner Ted Armstrong. It was as though they did not even hear the announcement. No one wanted to discuss the subject, for to do so would lead to the possibility of voicing an opinion on the situation. To voice an opinion would be dangerous because one would not know whether anyone listening would be of like opinion. This, of course, could lead to a threat of being reported to the minister. After all, no one wanted to be thrown out of the Church.
To further illustrate the mentality of some of these poor people who have given their minds over to a man, I recall an incident just a few weeks later. I was speaking in the parking lot with Bob Sorge, a man who shared my opinions. He too felt that we were witnessing a total capitulation on the part of the people to a man. While they thought they were being loyal to Christ, they in truth ere rejecting Him by being blindly loyal to a man who was now actually teaching contrary to Scripture and doing so in the name of Christ. This had been my first opportunity to talk to Bob Sorge since I had spoken with Mark Armstrong, and I was bringing him up to date. Standing some distance away, but straining to listen was a young member, Roy Koons. We were trying to speak privately but Koons was doing a good job at eavesdropping. He then walked over and blurted out, “You’re speaking against God’s apostle. You’re speaking to cause division among the brethren. I heard what you said. You can’t talk about Mr. Armstrong that way.” I responded, “We’re having a (102) private conversation and what we are speaking about is none of your business. I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinions and I’m not speaking to cause division. Bob and I happened to be in full agreement on this particular matter.” Sorge then indicated his agreement with what I had just said. Koons then said, “That’s not the point, you’re still speaking against Mr. Armstrong and he’s God’s apostle. That’s causing division. Someone could over hear you as I did. I have no choice but to report you to Mr. Frankel” I said to him, “Fine, go and tell him, but if I see him first, I’ll tell him before you do. What kind of childish mid do you have anyway?”
On July 25, 1978, Garner Ted sent a letter to the Worldwide Church ministers. In it he reviewed the entire circumstances surrounding his removal and then announced that he had formed the Church of God International, headquartered in Tyler, Texas. He said in the letter that he had taken his savings of $20,000 and began purchasing radio time. A few days later a similar letter was mailed to many members of the Worldwide Church of God. Garner Ted had then totally severed himself from the Worldwide Church and his action would appear to preclude his ever coming back in some sort of reconciliation. In making the decision to form a new church, Garner Ted totally rejected the terms of a letter which Stanley Rader sent him on July 24th.
Rader advised him that he has been discharged “for cause” and as a result was no legally entitled to any severance, termination or retirement payments. The letter went on to say, “However, as a matter of Christian courtesy, and not by virtue of any legal obligation, (pg 103) Mr. Herbert Armstrong, with the counsel and consent of his advisors, ahs agreed that the church pay you the sum of %50,000 per year in bi-monthly installments less Federal and State withholding.
“The payment of such sum is subject, however, to the unconditional right of the Church to terminate said payments at any time, with or without cause, within the Church’s sole and objective discretion. Without limitation upon generality of the foregoing, one of the conditions that would result in the termination of said payments would be breach of the following confidentiality provisions.”
Then regarding that confidential information that Garner Ted may have knowledge of, Rader continued, “By accepting either of the benefits provided herein, or any portion thereof, you agree to maintain the confidentiality and privacy of such information and documentation regarding such corporations and persons which you have within your knowledge, possession, custody or control. Further, you agree never to release, divulge, disclose, make available, or in any manner make known any such information or knowledge, possession, custody or control. You further agree to take reasonable precaution to safeguard all such information and documentation.
“”Whether any information or documentation is private or confidential shall be decided by the Church. Such decisions shall be within its sole and subjective discretion and shall be deemed conclusive and determinative to the question.”
In accordance with the same general terms, Rader also offered Garner Ted the use of a cabin at Lake Tahoe as his place of residence. Had Garner Ted signed this document, Rader would have been, in effect, judge, jury and executioner. For, he continued, “It should be noted that the use of the Tahoe cabin, and the financial arrangements, are without legal obligation but are based solely upon the certain subjective, discretionary spiritual determination based upon the Bible.” Rader ended the letter, “It is our sincere hope that you will see fit to accept the following under the terms and conditions provided and in the attitude of love and concern in which they are offered. In Jesus’ name, (Signed) Stanley R. Rader.”
To write such a letter to anyone is itself a gross insult. To do so in Jesus’ name is the height of blasphemy. Such a letter could only (104) make one wonder what it was that Garner Ted knew that so concerned Stanley Rader. After all, how many secrets could there be in a church organization that is established as a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. This is not a business where one must be concerned about trade secrets, and there should certainly be no concern about financial matters, as they should all be a matter of public information anyway.
Around this same time – I believe it was also in July – I received a set of documents in the mail from an anonymous source. These documents served to confirm some of he financial information that Mark Armstrong had given me verbally and in fact went far beyond that. They were entitles “Executive Expense Analysis” and dated March 3, 1978. One sheet showed that Henry Cornwall managed to spend $51,094.13 in Japan. Most of this money went to two receipts - $22,925.56 going to the Imperial Hotel and $24,881.28 to Japan Airlines. The purpose of these expenditures was not noted so it would be difficult to determine from this the legitimacy of the expenditures. Documents covering Rader’s expenses were much more detailed, however. He managed to spend a little more than Cornwall, a total of $51,432.14. $22,571.19 went to the Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris and $1,536 to Wilshire Travel. The balance appeared to be mostly for his own utilities - $287.26; property tax - $7,284.47; landscaping - $413.17; mortgage payment - $2,400; expenses allocated to his (pg 105) Tucson home were: furnishings - $7,508.65; mortgage payment - $999.30; telephone - $944.88; housekeeping service - $580; utilities - $237.91. There are also other smaller amounts, including a pest control service bill of $11.03. It appears from this document that every expense in both homes was paid by the Church. Even a minor bill such as that for the pest control service was not paid by Rader.
From this and the following one would wonder if he even needed a salary at all. Other expense items continued: expense allowance (unitemized) - $2,782; La Scala’s - $694.78; White Tie Limousine Service - $376.55; and on it went, even to a miscellaneous subscription for $19.36. From this it would appear that Rader was able to spend more at La Scala‘s Restaurant in one month than many families spend feeding an entire for twice that amount of time.
I just couldn’t quite understand it. Church members would sacrifice to contribute to the Church. Many of them postponed the purchase of necessities, including even clothing for their young children in order to tithe to the Church. This appeared to be just a tip of the iceberg. How much money, I wondered, was actually going to the true purposes of the Church and how much was going to maintain a regal lifestyle for the top officials? I decided that something had to be done about this.
(107) After laying out the entire background story on the Church and showing Herrmann and Pearlman the Executive Expense Analysis, Peter said, “Well, John, how does it feel to know that you have been paying for Stanley Rader’s house?” He was never one to miss an opportunity to needle me. He then said, “Well, Jeff, if we don’t make it in law, we can always start a church. It looks like a good business.”
Getting more serious, then they said that they felt that the matter warranted further investigation and that it certainly looked as though there may be cause for further action. Peter then explained to me that they had been recently involved in a class action stockholder suit in California and were dealing with an (108) attorney named Hillel Chodos. He said Chodos was a top trial attorney in Beverly Hills and liked to go after cases. I felt very encouraged that perhaps finally there would be a way to get the Church straightened out freeing it from the grasp of those who appeared to have motives which were not in accord with the teaching of the Bible. Paula and I certainly didn’t want to do anything that would be contrary to God’s way. We prayed about it constantly, asking God to guide and direct us and to show us if he wanted us to proceed in this direction.
The previous Sabbath, Richard Frankel had announced to the congregation that I was no longer in the Church, having succumbed to the dissident material. Then this Sabbath, realizing the threat that our meeting presented, he announced that I was being marked and disfellowshipped, which meant that no member was to have any contact or conversation with me. He also announced that Paula was being marked and disfellowshipped because she was my wife and evidently in accord with what I was doing.
Our own experience after leaving the Church was something difficult (110) to believe. Members who we considered our friends would have nothing to do with us. Only a couple of people maintained any contact with us at all and it was a most uneasy type of relationship. Even those contacts finally dwindled to nothing
(111) …we received encouragement from Peter Pearlman. He informed us that Hillel Chodos was interested in pursuing a legal action, and it we could get him additional information to go on he would consider doing something on a contingent fee basis. The concept was to sue for removal of Herbert Armstrong and Stanley Rader from their official Church corporate positions and seek restitution of all monies wrongfully taken from the Church. The attorneys were to receive a portion of this as compensation for their efforts. Chodos had initiated meetings with the California Attorney General’s Office and had discussed the matter with Lawrence R. Tapper, Deputy Attorney General.
Then, a short time after Chodos’s original contacts with Tapper, I was able to obtain a copy of a lengthy financial document called “The Pastor General Report.” This document, containing twenty-seven legal-sized pages, detailed millions of dollars in expenditures, most of it of a very questionable nature. This seemed to be the extra piece of ammunition needed to convince Tapper that the situation warranted further investigation. Again, this too was only the tip of the iceberg. But as the Ambassador Report was a wedge into the crack in the façade of the Worldwide Church of God, this certainly was the next major wedge to be driven into that ever-widening crack.
The Attorney General’s office agreed to conduct an investigation to determine whether any action could be taken. Our approach had to be a little different than suing officers of a commercial enterprise. As we were dealing with a charitable organization, any suit to (112) be brought against the officers would have to be brought by the Attorney General’s Office. Any individuals such as ourselves would be named as relators, rather than plaintiffs.