Chapter 15 Propaganda and Sit-ins
Rader found that those who viewed Armstrong as the apostle would rally behind him. A show of complete loyalty on the part of the deceived members of the Church was all he needed. Through his manipulation of these people, he would be able to thwart and frustrate the authorities for quite some time.
Over the weekend, a letter over Herbert Armstrong’s signature was prepared for mailing to the membership.
Dated January 14th
, it was run off secretly late that evening and early the following morning in an attempt to circumvent the receiver. Earl Timmons was immediately made aware of the letter by one of his contacts within the Church. The letter was nothing more than a blatant attempt to circumvent the court order.
Starting with his traditional tactic of striking fear in the hearts of the members, Armstrong opened his letter: “Satan has struck his master blow to destroy God’s Church. We must now FIGHT as never before, knowing God will also fight our battles with us.” He then went on to claim that the State of California had appointed a receiver who’s purpose was to take over God’s tithe money and to destroy God’s Church. He also claimed that the State had given the receiver the right to remove him as Pastor General from the Church. That statement was a complete lie and totally contrary to the ruling handed down by Judge Title.
Claiming that the tithes sent to Pasadena would be used by the (pg. 226)
State and not by the Church,
“…Meanwhile I ask you to stand solidly by Christ’s chosen Apostle! So, until I notify you otherwise, please go ALL OUT in support of GOD’S CHURCH AND WORK now. I have to ask you to SACRIFICE AS NEVER BEFORE. Send the most generous offerings it is possible for you to send to defend God’s Work.
And please state in your letter, in your own words, that this money is your ENDORSEMENT OF MY APOSTLESHIP, AND THE MONEY IS TO BE USED FOR DEFENDING GOD’S WORK AS I, Christ’s Apostle, deem best.”
Continuing in his plea for total sacrifice on the part of the membership, he said:
“SACRIFICE AS NEVER BEFORE! GOD’S WORK SHALL GO ON. Use THIS MAIL ADDRESS UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE:
Herbert W. Armstrong
c/o General Delivery
Tucson, Arizona 85731
With their immediate attempts to circumvent the court order it became quickly obvious that Armstrong and Rader were going to fight to the bitter end. Chodos summed it up quite well in a statement to Earl Timmons when he said that Rader reminded him of the women who wanted Solomon to have the baby but in half. He said he felt that if Rader couldn’t destroy the Church for himself, he would do everything he could to destroy it.
As a result of Timmons immediate knowledge of the preparation of this letter, he was able to bring a copy to Judge Weisman first thing in the morning. Weisman immediately sought a court order from Judge Title backing up his decision to embargo the letters at the Pasadena post office. Of 85,000 letters that had been printed, only approximately 25,000 entered the mail system.
Not to be thwarted, however, Church officials immediately implemented another plan. They resorted to what was known as the telephone hotline, or round-robin system. Through this system messages can be gotten to the entire Church membership within only a matter of hours. Headquarters personnel phoned the local ministers and read to them the key points of Armstrong’s letter. It only remained then for the local ministers to phone a few people in each congregation passing on the information. Through this chain of events, these individuals would then phone a group that each of them had on their list and again in one more step, each of (pg. 227) those individuals would make the final contacts and all Church members would have the message. The sense of urgency conveyed by this telephone message of soliciting the money be sent directly to Armstrong in Tucson was probably more effective than the letter would have been.
Church members now being told to commit acts of violation of government authority had complexly forgotten or ignored what they had read in Church publications and in the very Scriptures in which they claim to believe. But Armstrong, the master of mind manipulation soon had millions of dollars pouring into the post office at Tucson, Arizona. Yet, by the words of his own publication, The Plain Truth, he is condemned. In a pamphlet reprinted from a 1973 edition of The Plain Truth the Church issued an article written by Dr. Hoeh, entitled “Respect Government Authority.” Besides quoting again from Romans 13, Dr. Hoeh wrote: “Anyone who resists the authority of human government is actually rebelling against God who ordained that authority.”
Regarding our attitude towards government officials, he said, “It is a common practice for people to resist government regulations and to accuse office holders, whether the president or the corner policemen. This supposed ‘right’ of the people is abominably misused. There is a righteous limit to the ‘freedom’ of speech.”
And in his conclusion, he stated, “God has established earthly governments to keep order until His Kingdom comes. It is your commanded duty to submit to their authority patiently, excusing the obvious faults inherent in human leadership. No human government can be perfect; it may even be required of you by God to suffer unjustly when you have to obey God rather than man.”
From this point on, the entire affair began to degenerate into a circus of total resistance of authority on the part of the Church leadership.
On January 16, the Church attorneys appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Firth with a petition asking that he declare the Los Angeles Superior Court decision regarding the receivership, unconstitutional. They also filed a suit for seven hundred million dollars in damages against the State Attorney General and other court officers. Throughout the court proceedings, (pg. 228) Church members picketed and prayed outside the Federal Court House. Judge Firth refused to interfere and said, “It is obvious at this stage that it would be foolish to intrude the Federal court into the proceedings taking place in State Courts. “ The seven-hundred-million-dollar lawsuit against the State was later to be thrown out of court.
The following day, it became necessary for a debugging team to sweep the entire Church headquarters, as phones and offices had been bugged, making it almost impossible for court officers to function without Rader being aware of what they were saying. The Church-employed guards, who were supposed to cooperate withy the authorities, instead served as a constant obstruction to their efforts to conduct an audit and investigate the charges of malfeasance. It was necessary for Judge Weisman to hire his own guards at a cost of $2,600 per day.
Weisman had hired as his chief operating officer a man well experienced in affairs of this nature. He was A. Sheridan Atkinson, a well known Christian businessman. At various times he had served as chairman of the board of various major corporations, usually as someone hired to straighten out companies when they were in extreme difficulty. One of the most notable companies that he had headed was Botany 500, having been hired by a group of stockholders in order to preserve the assets of the corporation during its Chapter XI bankruptcy proceedings.
Atkinson said to several people, “I believe that God has sent me here to fight Satan. I have fought the mob before, and I fought Satan before, and actually I’ve even fought Stanley Rader before. A different face and a different name perhaps, but I have fought him before. And I won’t back down. My reputation as a Christian and as a business man is well known and I have a duty to fulfill here.”
By January 19th, security had totally broken down according to Atkinson, and vital assets, including gold bullion, coins, expensive paintings, computer tapes, were feared to be missing. All of these items were known to exist, but it was impossible for Atkinson to gain access to them. Church leaders were able to exercise total control over employees, since they were under fear of being disfellowshipped and fired from their jobs if they cooperate with the receiver. Had it not been for several employees who were secretly cooperating, things would have been even much more difficult.
(pg. 229) On January 18th, Judge Weisman wrote a letter to Herbert Armstrong advising him of the facts regarding the court order. He said in his letter: “I am writing this letter hoping that whatever problems there may be may be resolved in a spirit of cooperation for all concerned.” He then offered to meet Armstrong at anyplace, at any time, to resolve any misunderstanding. Predictably, the letter was ignored. It is even doubtful if Armstrong actually ever saw the letter.
The same day, a letter was sent to the Church membership from Armstrong and his letter now carried a box number address in Tucson, Arizona. Attempting to strike fear in the hearts of the members, he informed them that the very life of the God’s Church hung in the balance. He accused Judge Weisman of attempting to take the Church over himself. He continued claiming this is a satanic attempt to destroy the Church and then began to blame the entire matter on his son, claiming that it was a conspiracy brought about by his son in an attempt to destroy him. In one of his most typical ways of raising large sums of money coupled with his direction to send money to him in Tucson, he proclaimed a day of fasting on January 27th. Predictably, the people fasted and the money poured in.
During that same time period, Rader set the stage for a possible fight by the Church by issuing an announcement that Church headquarters would be moved out of Californian. While this never actually took place in totality, he financial functions of the Church were permanently moved to Tucson. Everything was then made ready, just in case any further moves were determined necessary by the leaders.
While all this was taking place, I heard that Wayne Cole had tape recorded his December phone conversation with Herbert Armstrong. Supposedly, the comments made by Herbert Armstrong regarding Stanley Rader were on these tapes. I decided to call Cole to see if he had in fact made such tapes.
On January 21st, I phoned him and his wife answered. She said that he was not taking any calls, that he was physically ill over the entire situation and just didn’t want to have anymore to do with it. I suggested to her the possibility of the existence of tape recordings of the December conversations. I could tell that it was a sensitive subject and she didn’t want to discuss it. Finally, she did promise that if he felt better later in the day, he would call me back.
(pg. 230) By late afternoon, having not yet heard from him, I decided that I had to force the issue. I called again. The response was the same. His wife, who answered the phone, said that he did not want to speak to me. I then said, “I understand that he has both notes and actual recordings of conversations with Herbert Armstrong. I had hoped that he would be willing to turn them over in order to avoid the need to be subpoenaed.”
Apparently, that statement was sufficient to bring him to the phone. After some conversation, Cole agreed to turnover the notes and the tape. Within he next couple of days, his notes of the conversations were in the possession of Hillel Chodos and the tape recordings were in the possession of the producers of 60 Minutes.
To this day, I don’t know the means of conveyance of these items from Cole to their final destination. The cloak-and-dagger aspects of this situation, particularly since it involves a church, are almost impossible to believe. Yet it was necessary that much information be secretly passed at rendezvous points in the dark of night. Many people had been threatened, and Earl Timmons had been told by Church members that they just couldn’t wait to get him against the wall and shoot him.
Suddenly we could see history being relived. During the Crusades, when the apostate Church at Rome was trying to spread its brand of paganized Christianity throughout Europe, people were killed fro refusing to bow their knee to the Pope. But that just seemed like so much distant history. Now in 1979, brothers in the Church were threatening other brothers with murder. Thankfully, it never happened. But then again one never knows what the coming months and years may bring. These events certainly put quite an impact on what the apostle John said in the Book of John 16:2, “Yea, the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God a service.”
Armstrong and Rader were trying very hard to press the issue of trying to force the officials to precipitate violence. They wanted martyrs.
Starting on January 21st, all-day sit-ins were conducted in the Ambassador auditorium and the various Church office buildings. By the following day there were over 2,400 people gathered, including children whose parents were instructed to keep out of school. The buildings were locked and signs were posted on the (pg. 231) doors, “Worldwide Church of God Ecclesiastical Service.” Armstrong spoke to the gathered people over telephone lines from Tucson. He said, “Being subject to the laws doesn’t always mean to obey them. I wonder if people aren’t going to have to go to jail.”
His tactic and his psychology was no different that that used by Martin Luther King, when after making similar statements, riots ensued. This was the very same type of conduct that Armsrong was condemning not too many years back.
By Wednesday morning, January 24th, the situation had all of the potential of a Kent State disaster. And that is exactly what Armsrong and Rader wanted. Uniformed deputies escorted Sheridan Atkinson to the administration building. His entrance was barred by doors that had been locked by timbers which had been placed through the door handles. Members inside were singing hymns. Outside the door, a deacon, Wayne Pyle, yelled at Atkinson, “If you want to come in you’re going to have to break the door down. You will have to arrest us. You are our enemy, but we’ll pray for you. We’ll pray for God to take care of you.”
Atkinson was fine example of Christianity in its practical application. He tried to reason with Pyle, and said that he was a Christian and believed in moderation in all things. Instead of giving a command to break down the door, he held up a copy of Judge Title’s order and an open Bible and said, “I believe in the same God they do, but they ought to red the 13th Chapter of Romans.” Standing before news camera was a representative of the courts conducting himself as a true Christian and speaking the words of Christ to a group of people who were making an absolute mockery of the Gospel.
Exercising the utmost restraint, Weisman decided not to use the two hundred riot-equipped deputies and Pasadena Police officers who had been assembled at a nearby park in the event they were given the command to break down the doors. He sent a message to Rader: “I have so much respect for religious freedom and the right not to interfere with that I would like to work out something that respects your religious freedom.” A meeting was held and a compromise was reached.
Later that afternoon Rader escorted Weisman into the administration building. A short while later, when Weisman left, Rader, in a complete about-face, said to the assembled group of Church members, “There is no peace, there is till a war. Not until (pg. 232) we get the attorney general punched out and the receiver punched out will there be peace. We’re still in a state of all out war. We’ve been invaded by an army of the State of California. There were one hundred fifty armed members of the sheriff’s force ready to break down the doors.”
In spite of this statement, however, Rader had apparently decided to back down somewhat. For, by the following day, the demonstration was over, the entire premises left in a shambles by people who had always prided themselves as being ones who should show care and consideration for property.
During the same week that the demonstration was in progress at the Church headquarters in Pasadena, Herbert Armstrong was holding a ministers conference in Tucson. This conference, which had been officially scheduled to take place at the Auditorium in Pasadena, had been hastily moved. Armstrong had no intention of coming to California. For someone who said he had wanted to cooperate with authorities, he was using maximum effort to stay out of their reach. Prior to the conference, there had been rumors that many of the leading ministers and area coordinators were going to speak out at the conference in support of the Attorney General. It was said that maybe they could bring the entire matter to a head and get Herbert Armstrong to remove Rader.
By this time, the smokescreen of the Church versus state had been so well thrown up by Armstrong and Rader that many people were totally deceived by the true issues. Approximately 550 ministers gathered for the conference. And true to form, no one spoke out against Armstrong.
One can only conclude that these men are ministers of convenience rather than ministers of conviction. Apparently, they were brought up in an educational environment and a career that is so sheltered, so attached to Herbert Armstrong that they stand in absolute fear of having to earn a living under the same conditions as the members to whom they are supposed to be shepherds. Armstrong, in his address to the ministers said, “This attack has come on the Church because I represent Jesus Christ, and this world doesn’t love Jesus Christ.” Ministers who knew better than to believe that sat silently and listened. Most of the conference consisted of Armstrong attacks on what he labeled “liberal dissidents” and those who said he had tried to change the Church and take its control away from him.
Roderick Meredith, however, decided to use the conference as an opportunity to undermine Rader. His purpose was not that altruistic, as he felt that he was the one who should be in charge of the Church next to Armstrong, and he was anxious to make a move. There had been a rumor regarding Rader that had not yet been widely spread. In order to make sure everyone knew the rumor, Meredith decided to publicly deny the rumor. He then announced to the entire assembled group of ministers that all of the allegations regarding Rader’s homosexual conduct with Cornwall were false. Now everyone knew the story. And while Rader remained totally silent on the subject he would have the final word on Meredith.
A few months later, Rader was to have Meredith removed by convincing Armstrong to eliminate the position of head of the ministry and take it himself.
On January 26th, Sheridan Atkinson resigned as the receiver’s chief operating officer. Apparently, Weisman considered Atkinson not sufficiently sensitive to some of the problems and Atkinson claimed he had found it best to resign as he was being thwarted by politics. He said that he was totally unable to get anything done and that he had a reputation of achievement. He said if he were going to be ineffective in his positions, it was better that he resign. Atkinson said that he had even heard that there was a strong possibility that he may find himself on a hit list as a result of his involvement.
Again on January 29th, Browne was back in Federal Court with another attempt to get Judge Firth to remove the receivership. He was unsuccessful. Hillel Chodos pointed out that the constitutional rights argument was just a smokescreen, a series of trumped-up charges, an attempt to thwart the receiver. He said, “You cannot perpetrate fraud in the name of religion and then wrap yourself in the flag and call out the name of the First amendment.”
He said that Browne, in effect, was saying, “If a man comes into court and says ‘stealing is my religion’ there’s nothing you could do about it.” And through all this Rader continued to conduct himself in a way totally contrary to that of a Church leader.
Referring to Deputy Attorney General Tapper, he said, “I think the Attorney General is paranoid. We were in the same class. I was at the top and he was an also-ran. HE was out to get me. I’m going to make the Attorney General eat those words.”
From this point on the entire receivership settled down into a (pg. 234) lengthy, tedious legal battle. There were constant trips in and out of the court room, too numerous to mention. Several attempts were made by Rader to appeal to the Federal courts without success. A petition was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to have the state’s action reversed on the grounds of the first amendment prohibiting against government establishment of religion.
Judge Weisman later resigned his position as receiver, as his health did not permit him to withstand the rigors of the job. After numerous court proceedings, at this writing, the Church is under orders to provide all documents to the Attorney General’s office as deemed necessary for the purpose of the investigation.
While all these court battles were taking place, Rader used every attempt to frustrate those he considered to be his enemies. HE filed a $550 million lawsuit against Garner Ted Armstrong. Then his accounting firm filed a $13 million suit against Garner Ted. Both suits were thrown out of court as legally deficient. And then there was the $13 million suit that Rader filed against Deputy Attorney General Tapper and Hillel Chodos. Chodos’ response was, ‘This complaint will be given the attention it deserves.”
Though all this, Rader’s troubles, however, were to continue to grow. Soon after the initiation of the receivership, the IRS advised him that he was under criminal investigation. Whether or not Rader had had a prior investigation was no longer important. This time the investigation was initiated from the grass roots, and would be very difficult in not impossible to stop.
Through all the demonstrations, sit-ins and other unchristian conduct, Church officials acted as though the 13th Chapter of Romans did not apply to them. Yet, in April 1957, the following was written in The Plain Truth, “We must all be subject to the laws of our land and to its court decisions. WE MUST NOT RESIST AUTHORITY. We are not to participate in boycotts in order to force officials to change their policy.”
There can be no doubt that Armstrong and Rader knowingly and willfully manipulated the minds of their members in such a way that these people became totally contrary in their conduct to the teachings of the very Bible in which they profess to believe. In fact, in 1948, when the Church was originally incorporated as the radio Church of God, Armstrong considered obedience to law so important, that in the Covenant portion of the Church constitution and by-laws, he wrote: “having been called through the will of God to (pg. 235) this special ministry for this time in the service of Jesus Christ our Lord we do now in the presence of Almighty God and this assembly most solemnly enter into a COVENANT with Almighty God our Heavenly Father, and with one another, in the name of Jesus Christ; to walk circumspectly in the world, to be subject to the laws and government of our nation, to pray for the president and leaders of the national government, to be careful to give a good account of ourselves at all times before the world in order that we may win, so far as within us lies as Christians the respect and approbation of he world, to avoid the appearance of evil or placing a stumbling block before others, to practice the Great Command; “Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself” with charity towards all and malice towards none, following the example of Jesus Christ by the faith and in the power of His Spirit.”
Not only has Herbert Armstrong broken his covenant with God, but he has induced others to do the same. In II Peter 2:1, Peter speaks plainly about such things. He says: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privally shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that brought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.