When it comes to evaluating the allegations of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) committing incest, however, the situation is more challenging. The act is repulsive, the implications are significant, the burden of proof is high, and yet the documentation is somewhat sparse and hotly contested. His critics tend to dogmatically claim HWA committed incest and offer this as proof that HWA was not a man led by God. Some ministers have acknowledged that HWA did commit incest but they tend to downplay the significance of it. Other strident HWA supporters have dogmatically claimed that the allegations are false and these individuals typically attack the integrity and motives of the accusers.
Is it possible to sort through all of the contradictory claims on this topic? This document was prepared to summarize my own efforts to do so. It was compiled from information that is available on the internet. I’ve also included additional material regarding my discussions with some of the ministers who had been at the Pasadena Headquarters just before and after the accusations were made public around 1980.
PART 1 – SUPPORT FOR THE ALLEGATIONS BEING FALSE
A number of individuals have indicated that the charges against HWA are false, unfounded and evil spirited. Common positions include:
1. LACK OF EVIDENCE - the evidence presented by his accusers would not stand up in court. An example of such a position is discussed in further detail below.
2. INCONCEIVABLE - it is inconceivable for a man of integrity, a man of God, to have done such a thing. This type of defense is also addressed below.
“Not guilty” due to lack of evidence. Bob Thiel is an individual who finds HWA not guilty of incest due to there being insufficient evidence to prove the incest had taken place. His full, in-depth explanation can be found at the following link:
Bob reported that he personally investigated the issue. He claimed that not only could the accusations not be proven, but some aspects were actually disprovable. He concluded that the accusers had merely perpetuated the charade with no direct information and that HWA would be found not guilty in any real court of law.
In essence, Bob believes that all accusations about HWA and his daughter stem from the charges first aired in David Robinson's 1980 book, Armstrong’s Tangled Web.
A significant point Bob made included that Art Mokarow would not stand by previous comments about personally hearing HWA's alleged confession in the "Lochner tapes"
Note that in Bob’s investigation, he did not discuss the allegations with several individuals who had reported learning about the incest directly from Armstrong family members.
“Not guilty” because it is inconceivable. It makes no sense that God would have imparted spiritual knowledge to an individual who, at the same time was violating his own daughter. This is the position many take, including the individual behind the "HWA Library" site and Frank Nelte. In response to questions I raised, they both argued along the lines of: God only works through men of integrity. God obviously worked through HWA. Therefore, HWA is a man of integrity and these claims must be false.
Although many strongly believe this to be the case, circular reasoning proves nothing.
PART 2 – SUPPORT FOR THE ACCUSATIONS BEING TRUE (GENERAL)
Lack of Denials
It would have been reassuring to find clear denials of the incest at the time these claims had been put into print in books (e.g., Armstrong's Tangled Web) or when they appeared in newspapers (during HWA's divorce trial and when the church divided in 1995). However, the allegations were never denied publically by HWA, by his family members, or by the WCG.
Is the lack of denials proof that the incest occurred? No.
Some HWA supporters have acknowledged (without getting into the specific 'proofs') that he had committed incest with his daughter but then have offered excuses such as the "David defense" to minimize the transgression and to imply that it had no impact on his role. Such statements are telling but they neither prove nor excuse the alleged incest.
Are non-specific acknowledgments of incest proofs that the incest had occurred? No.
PART 3 – SUPPORT FOR THE ACCUSATIONS BEING TRUE (SPECIFIC)
David Robinson wrote from firsthand knowledge of the WCG and with deep disappointment. He came to agree with Solomon who advised against putting their trust in men. Chapter XX of the book covered HWA and the incest story. An excerpt is provided below and the entire book is available in PDF form at the following link accessed from "The Painful Truth" website:
April 19, 1993 (snail-mailed to 35-40 others, including ESN)
Post Office Box 2530,
Tyler, Texas, 75710
Garner Ted Armstrong, Founder