Then it began. Nobody knew what triggered it. There was no summons from Herbert Armstrong, none from me, or from any of the Church officials or ministers. Most of the latter were not even in Pasadena; they were attending an ecclesiastical conference in Tucson. It started with a trickle of Church members on Sunday, January 21, just after the rebuff in the federal court. Soon the trickle became a flood — a massive outpouring of loyal members who converged on Church headquarters from all over California and neighboring states. By Wednesday, January 24, we were astounded to discover that more than 3,500 men, women and children had come to Pasadena to defend their Church. They came by car, van, trailer, truck, train, bicycle, and even on foot. There were people in suits and ties and in blue jeans; there were parents with infants in their arms, parents with pre-parents with teenagers. There were young people and men and women deep in their eighties and even older. They came in expensive automobiles and rickety vehicles that lurched and backfired. They came from Fresno and San Francisco, Sacramento and Santa Cruz, San Diego and Salinas and Santa Maria; there were license plates from Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, and Wyoming, Texas. They were all our people, these faithful, who came because they were determined to save their Church. In Tucson, some Church leaders and members telephoned Herbert Armstrong. Was he sending out the word to march on Pasadena? Mr. Armstrong was as puzzled as the rest of us. "I told them all I don't know anything about it," he said. The answer was uncomplicated. Reading what was happening, hearing about it on news programs, the people came of their own accord in a great spontaneous show of faith. As the Los Angeles Herald Examiner put it, they formed a "defiant human wall" to keep the receiver and his henchmen from controlling their Church. Watching them come, the headquarters staff was at first puzzled; then, realizing the significance of what they were witnessing, many felt the sting of tears behind their eyes; some wept openly at this remarkable spontaneous display of loyalty, courage, and trust. Soon the large open space on the main floor of the Administration building was filled with the arrivals. Newcomers, greeted warmly by squatters already there, went to the upper floors and bunked down in the offices, the corridors, wherever they could find a little room. Some came with blankets, some with sleeping bags; they carried knapsacks, canvas bags, duffels, cardboard boxes, and suitcases. They had coffee jugs, plastic coolers, picnic hampers filled with food. Almost at once, huge hand-lettered signs were fashioned and hung outside. One, above the door of the Administration building, read: "You can't destroy God's Church." Another said: "Owned by the Creator God Not the State of California." A third: "Herbert W. Armstrong is God's Apostle." They sat and lounged quietly inside, these faithful, reading Scriptures, talking among themselves. Children, who had brought schoolbooks, were trying to keep up with their studies under watchful parental eyes.
On Monday morning, January 29, Steven Weisman and his aides came to Church headquarters. The people barred their way. There was no violence or even the hint of it. They simply told the receiver that he could not enter the nerve center of their Church. Weisman, who had not expected this new development, immediately filed a claim with Judge Title. The judge told our attorneys to warn our people against interfering with the receiver in any way. If the protesting members did not leave voluntarily, Judge Title said, the court would order them removed. That day I sent a message to the members inside headquarters, asking them to allow Weisman and his aides to enter the building unmolested. Much as we all wanted them out of there, they were — temporarily at least — legally entitled to be there. The court had spoken and, as an attorney and thus an officer of the court, I recognized that the court's order must be obeyed. All day long the faithful kept arriving. It was a movement that seemed to feed on itself: news of the first arrivals, published in newspapers and witnessed on television, inspired others. They left jobs, shut the doors of their shops, packed — and came. After the receiver had stalked off, Joseph Tkach, a husky, graying Church minister, and Joseph Kotora, a Church deacon — the same man who had been assaulted earlier — set up a makeshift pulpit near the main doors and, through hastily arranged loudspeakers, began a Church service. In moments, the entire Administration Building became a huge temple of God. The sight was as bizarre as it was inspiring. Joe Kotora's opening prayer reverberated through the floors as Church members, many red eyed from lack of sleep, few of them dressed for a religious service, bowed their heads. "Our Father in Heaven," Joe said, "we thank You for the opportunity to assemble once again to praise Your Holy Name... After the prayer, Joe led the congregation in song:
The Eternal reigneth high above, He is mighty, He is great; there between the cherubim He sits; let the people praise His name.
The voices rose from the blanket-covered marble floor and came down from the upper stories, bounding back from the walls in a mighty wave of sound. Kotora, a slight man, now retired and a full-time Church volunteer, leaned into the microphone and sang again:
0 God, we have heard and our fathers have taught The works which of old in their day Thou hast wrought; The nations were crushed and expelled by Thy hand, Cast out that Thy people might dwell on their land.
The meaning of the words was not lost on the members, who sang with even greater fervor. A sermon by Dean Blackwell, a Texan who is a top-ranking minister, followed. "We're here because of the great oppressors," he told the members. "We're in the process of being evicted out of the properties of God. The situation is a life-and-death struggle for the Church of God." The Church, he said, had known for some time that it would have to suffer persecution, and "we are witnessing this now." There were more songs and a closing prayer by Joe Tkach who, in his strong voice, asked for the blessing, protection, and guidance of God, "our Father who sits at the controls of the universe, the One who is more aware of the circumstances of the crisis we are facing than any mortal." By that evening, thousands had reached Pasadena. The new arrivals went to the two-story Student Center behind the Hall of Administration and when that was crammed full, the auditorium was next. The oldest there was a sprightly woman in her nineties, the youngest an infant born just one month before. Special rooms were set-aside for mothers to nurse their babies. The food they had brought with them soon ran out so our staff set up facilities. Meals were prepared and served in the kitchen of the Student Center, which has a cafeteria seating more than 500 persons, and the overflow was fed at long tables set up in front of the Administration Building. Next day, shortly after 8:00 A.M., two sheriff's deputies strode up on either side of Sheridan Atkinson, the chief operations officer for the receiver. The tall glass doors were locked. Behind them, grim faced, stood a wall of people. The deputies struggled with the doors, rattled them, inserted a key into the lock, twisted it. The key did not work. Inside, the members raised their voices in "Onward Christian Soldiers." The words of the stirring hymn were heard clearly outside in the still morning air. Atkinson went behind the building to try to gain admission through a rear entrance, but this too was locked. From the inside, youthful Wayne Pyle, a deacon who was guarding the door, calmly told him: "We do not recognize your authority. You'll have to break it down to get in. You've hurt the Church badly. You are trampling on our religious freedoms." Behind him, hundreds of members, noting that the scene of the confrontation had changed, moved en masse behind Pyle and again began singing "Onward Christian Soldiers." Atkinson, baffled, retreated across Green Street, a few hundred feet off, conferred briefly with the sheriff's deputies, then left in an unmarked car. Bibles vs. Billy clubs Moments after Atkinson left, I arrived at the headquarters building and, standing before the lectern from which services were being conducted, I spoke to our people. I was deeply moved, as I looked out at them, the mothers holding their infants, the old people and the young. I spoke slowly. "It is very hard to say how much I appreciate this kind of support for Mr. Armstrong," I told them. "For myself, I will never be able to thank you enough." I paused; a suspicion of a lump had formed in my throat. I explained that Judge Title, putting great pressure on our attorneys, was commanding Herbert Armstrong and me to order them all out. A deep silence greeted the statement'. Nobody moved. I paused again as the incomprehensible stonewalling of the judge and the attorney general hit me strongly. "He [the judge] refused to believe that any of you could possibly have come here of your own volition," I continued. "Never in my life have I witnessed such a lack of comprehension on the part of so many people. We have judges, attorney generals, and lawyers opposing us who do not begin to comprehend for a moment that this is a church, that you people have dedicated yourselves to Jesus Christ, that we are all involved in this work for only one purpose, and this is to get behind Mr. Armstrong, God's Apostle and personal representative at this time to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Until now, those words mean nothing to these people. They cannot relate to it. They do not understand the existence of the New Testament, much less what it means to us. Despite access to the press — and they are here again today — and despite every effort I have made to explain to them what we are all about, I don't think we have gotten through to them yet. But we will keep trying. Somehow or other, the opposition believes that I am the puppeteer and that Mr. Armstrong is my puppet and somehow or other all you people are my puppets. "How many of you believe that for one moment? Did you come here at my request?" Shouts of "No! No!" rose from the members. "Did you come here at Mr. Armstrong's request?" The voices rose again: "No! No!" "Would you leave if I told you to leave?" Another chorus of "No! No!" I explained the belief that had been growing in my mind, a suspicion that the past weeks had hardened into absolute conviction. "There is a systematic effort being made to denigrate Christ's Apostle," I said. "There is a systematic effort being made to belittle him. "There is a systematic effort being made to make him less than we know he is by ascribing to me certain powers over him. "We must make the press and the court understand that there is only one Apostle in this Church." Within the next fifteen to twenty minutes, I told them, they would hear from Herbert Armstrong himself. A telephone circuit had been set up between Tucson and Church headquarters, and loudspeakers would carry his voice throughout the entire area where the members were encamped. Before I stepped down, I wanted to hear once again how they felt about dispersing, to make absolutely certain of their resolve. So again I asked: "If I tell you to leave now, will you leave?" This time the roar was deafening. "No! No!" In the few moments remaining before Mr. Armstrong's address, Ralph Helge, who had been standing at my side, spoke briefly. Ralph gripped the lectern sides and, in a voice that sounded choked and thick, told them of the ordeal we were all undergoing. "I tell you at night we are working, and at night I cannot sleep because I am so wrathful at the thought of what the courts have come down with. When I walked to this door, I tell you I had to bite my lip to keep from crying." Minutes later, the voice of the Pastor General, strong and clear, filled the buildings where the members were encamped and sounded throughout the entire northern portion of the campus. It was a brief message but it encapsulated, for everyone who listened, the historical meaning of what was happening in Pasadena. Like the Apostles Peter and Paul, who were jailed for their beliefs, Herbert Armstrong told us he was ready too. If the members had to suffer persecution by being thrown into prison, the eighty-seven-year-old Pastor General announced that he would lead his follower's into the cells. "The people of God have always been willing to suffer whatever they have to do for the Living God," he said. "And I tell you, this has drawn us together. We are fighting this battle for all churches, for all religions. We're fighting it for freedom of press and freedom of religion, for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. All of these things are being now threatened by certain judges, ex-judges, and all I can say is this: What God teaches us through the Bible is that we are to be subject to the powers that be of the government of man. But being subject does not always mean obey. When it comes to a difference between God and man, we are to obey God rather than man. But yet we will be subject to man if they throw us in prison... The Living God is fighting this battle for us, and against forces that are not God's forces. So I go on record as saying that. "We are a law-abiding people. We are subject to the law. We are patriotic. We are loyal. We love our country. But unfortunately, we're living in a world where there is a great deal of evil. And I tell you, when six men, who are dissidents and who only hate the work of God, and want to destroy it, and who are ex-members of the Church, can come together and allege certain things and bring certain false charges, that is evil. "It's precisely the same thing as in the days of Jesus Christ when people brought false charges against Christ. He was on trial for His life before Pontius Pilate. And Pilate said: 'I find no evil in this man...' "And it's exactly that way today. They have not one shred of evidence. We have done no evil. We are only doing what the Lord Jesus Christ has commissioned us to do. And I say to you by the authority of Jesus Christ we shall go on doing it, no matter what happens. "And if we have to begin to suffer the persecution of being thrown in prison, I will be the first to be ready to go. If they want to throw eighty-seven-year-old people into prison, if they want to throw women and little children that are there into prison, I think they're ready to go." And they were. A white-haired grandmother told a reporter that the prospect of being locked up horrified her but she would go to prison if she must. A woman had come from Palm Springs with her four young children, fully aware of the consequences, yet she came anyway. Martin Anderson, a thirty-two-year-old tree trimmer from the small city of La Verne, squatting in a corner with his wife and three children, admitted the thought of jail was "scary," but he would not leave. "You've got to stand up to the state when it gets a handhold on your Church," he said. And at the rear door, young Wayne Pyle, who had been warned by Atkinson that the members would be in trouble with the court if they kept the receiver out, had responded heatedly: "You're in trouble with the higher court of heaven. You are the Antichrist. You are our enemy. We'll pray for you. We'll pray for God to take care of you. But if you want to haul us away and arrest us, we're willing to go. " While many hundreds would have gone off to jail without a struggle, others had become angry enough to want a confrontation and be dragged off. Thus, they could dramatize before a shocked and incredulous world what the attorney general and the state of California were doing to people whose only "crime" was a passionate defense of their religious liberties. Events were moving rapidly toward flashpoint. A headline in the Pasadena Star-News told the ominous story in a few words:
DEPUTIES MASS FOR CHURCH RAID
About a mile away, Brookside Park, the lovely green area in which the Rose Bowl nestled, had been turned into a staging area for several hundred sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement officials. Arriving at dawn, they were clumped in small groups near their police cars, waiting — at an estimated cost to taxpayers of between $2,000 and $3,000 an hour. The men were fully equipped with riot gear. Gas masks and tear gas canisters were strapped to their hips, long nightsticks were slung in their belts, and helmets had been issued to all. They had rifles and they had shotguns. Parked nose to tailpipe in the park was a long line of buses; drawn up close were dozens of police cars. There was no doubt in my mind, nor in the minds of the newspersons covering the story, that the authorities were preparing to make wholesale arrests. It is interesting to note that on this day the Pasadena police department could not muster enough personnel to mass for the possible assault. Many members of the force, who knew us and were our friends, were suddenly calling in sick; reinforcements had to be summoned from Los Angeles. What worried me most was the possibility, which grew grimmer and closer by the hour, that a tragedy could explode in Pasadena. Nor was I alone in the fear. Wrote the Star-News in describing the scene at Brookside Park: "It looked much like a gathering point for authorities during the college disturbances of the mid '60s and early '70s." I felt a cold chill as I read those words. It was nine years before, on a warm May day, that National Guard troops had opened fire on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, killing four young people who were protesting American involvement in the Vietnam War. Tensions were mounting here, too, and tempers were becoming frayed. If arrests were ordered, and some resisted, how much would it take for some armed deputy or police officer to lose his head and spark a repetition of the Kent State tragedy? Paradoxically, a confrontation that would result in mass jail — would have been a public relations disaster for the attorney general. The sight of God-loving men, women, and children being dragged off by armed officers of the law, televised and splashed on front pages, would have horrified the nation. We would have obtained writs of habeas corpus to release the "prisoners," and the subsequent trial would have laid bare the arrogance of the authorities at the same time that it demonstrated the willingness of good people to be jailed if necessary to protect their Church. A country with the traditions of the United States, colonized by people who sought religious as well as political freedom, who have cherished that right for almost four hundred years, would have responded to the outrage with sympathy and indignation. The scenario, as it would have been played out, would have been to our considerable advantage. I must admit that the idea to let it happen was tempting. However, I rejected it because there was no guarantee that violence could be prevented. The sun shone brightly as the day wore on but the mood around Pasadena was growing darker and more ugly with each passing hour.
"God Is On His Throne"
That afternoon, a representative of the receiver reached me on the telephone. "Can't we work out some kind of compromise?" he asked. Our defiant human wall was solid. But the opposing wall was now showing a fissure. The other side, convinced at last of the firmness of our members' resolve to remain, apparently aware that a pitched battle could only too easily result in a massacre, was backing down. Smoldering with the injustice of the whole business, I knew nonetheless that it was a time for sound judgment and reasoned calm. Edmund Burke once wrote: "It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do." I agreed to a meeting. We met with Weisman, his aides, and representatives of the attorney general. After two hours, we reached an agreement that, for us, was a symbolic victory. The receiver would no longer be quartered in the Administration Building. No longer would the Church have to submit to the humiliation of an outside presence in its nerve center. Weisman would be permitted to carry on his work, but elsewhere — on Church property but not before our eyes. He would be given a small, windowless room in our old press building, off the campus, on the other side of Foothill Freeway. The agreement was reported to Judge Title, into' whose mind the first faint glimmering of light began to penetrate. No Brandeis or Frankfurter, Judge Title is not noted for his perspicacity or his wisdom. In this case, it had become evident to me; the principles of the law were eluding him. He was, to put it bluntly, stubborn, arrogant, and just plain wrong. Thankfully, he did one thing right. He signed this order. I hurried to the headquarters building and, with a broad smile and a much lighter heart, I explained to our members that the dagger pointed at all of us was, for the time being, pushed aside. "No sheriffs or law enforcement people will be coming here to drag you away," I said on the podium. "We will permit these people for the moment to go about their evil business. But you will be able to watch them, to see that they do not destroy or desecrate Church property. If they smoke or swear or take God's name in vain, we want to know about it. If they are carrying out documents, we want to know about it." A court order, a legal document allowing the receiver to be on the premises, was in existence, I explained, and this had to be obeyed. There was no choice. "But," I added, "that does not mean that we are going to let these people destroy our property, which — is God's property, and we are not about to let them carry it off and blame it on somebody else. "These people are in here for only one purpose. To make money for themselves. You have to understand that. These are people who go around the city and country and maybe the state looking for the job of being a receiver. They have threatened some of our people and have told them that they will liquidate this Church. "Well, they would probably hope to do so. But God is on His throne, the living God, and it will not be permitted!" I looked out at the sea of faces. Many jubilantly embraced one another; tears of joy streaming down their cheeks. A large crowd surged around me, shouting, "We won, we won!" It was a good day. But victory, full and complete, was still a long way off.
Sword of Damocles
Our battle had to continue because the state was not relaxing its grip. California's newly elected attorney general, George Deukmejian, who had been inaugurated six days after the original suit was filed, was given a two-hour briefing by Lawrence Tapper on the progress of the case. From Deukmejian's office came the announcement: "The case will proceed. We don't see any change of direction." His spokesman, Bob Cook, said Deukmejian seemed satisfied that sufficient evidence existed to warrant continuation of the receivership pending investigation and litigation. This despite a plea by William Ivers, a Republican assemblyman from Pasadena, expressing concern about the propriety of the action. Nevertheless, some good things happened. First, A. Sheridan Atkinson, the receiver's chief operating officer, was fired by Weisman. Atkinson told Weisman that the new limiting terms of the compromise agreement made him and his staff redundant and Weisman apparently agreed. And, soon after, we saw the last of Steven Weisman himself. On February 6, we went once again before Judge Title, seeking an injunction against his order permitting Weisman to investigate our records. Even though the receiver was not underfoot any longer, he still had powers of monitoring and control, and we felt that any outside interference was intolerable. At this hearing, Steven Weisman announced he had had enough. Citing "health problems" as well as "obstruction and harassment," he told Judge Title it would be impossible for him to stay. Weisman lusted not only for the $450,000 per year, but he wanted power — raw, undiluted power so that he could, in his own words, be "the boss." The judge, somewhat surprised, agreed nonetheless and asked Weisman to remain until February 21, when he, Title, would hear a final accounting and name a successor. On February 21, Judge Title had a surprise for us. Weisman was not ready with his accounting and received a postponement, but Title announced his intention to dissolve the receivership, thus allowing us to resume control of our finances. That was the good news. At the same time, he said, the examination of the Church's finances by the auditors would continue, under the protection of a comprehensive injunctive order. That, we were to discover, was dreadful news. Judge Title admitted that he had some question about what the receivership was accomplishing, perhaps the greatest understatement since the proceedings began. On the negative side, it was creating pure havoc; as for positive results, not a shred of evidence had been turned up to bolster charges of siphoning, pilfering, or any wrongdoing whatever. Auditors, working under guidance from the attorney general's office, could handle the same functions without any need for a receiver. Then, on March 1, Judge Title spelled out how the injunctive order to audit our finances was to be conducted. It was, if possible, even more oppressive than the original receivership. If one yoke had been lifted, the new one was even tighter. Accepting in large part a form of order drafted by the attorney general, Judge Title ordered us to give the state's auditors all our records, but in such a manner that we would not know what information was being turned over. Never mind if the records were Church — privileged. Never mind how confidential they were, or if revealing them violated an individual's right of privacy. Our entire computerized database must be laid bare to the scrutiny of the auditors! We were ordered to make two rooms available to them in our data processing center, where we had to install two copy machines,, each with a computer terminal giving direct on-line access to the entire data base. The Church was further directed to prepare and deliver to the attorney general a complete tape copy of its entire computerized data base in a form that could be used on the attorney general's own computers. It was unspeakable. A religious institution's every action and transaction would be revealed in fullest detail to outsiders. A church would be wiretapped by computer — the bugging accomplished, not by microphones and listening devices, but computer tapes. The intrusion into our religious, not to mention personal, liberties would be no less heinous than if all our telephones, all our private conferences and consultations would be tape-recorded. Counsel for the Church promptly appealed. A more moderate protectively phrased form of order proposed by us had been ignored, and our protests at the oppressive nature and the utter lack of the most elementary Constitutional and procedural protection in the order adopted were summarily denied. But the Church's appeal had the effect of automatically staying the mandatory portions of the injunctive order, those requiring us to furnish computer terminals, copy machines, and other devices. This rendered its key provisions ineffectual pending the outcome of the appeal. On Monday, March 12, a number of motions came on for hearing before Title, including the hearing on Judge Weisman's proposed accounting, which had been deferred. After having disposed of these matters, the court, on its own motion, without notice, hearing, or opportunity to prepare a defense or otherwise be heard, and on the basis of no new evidence save the notice of appeal itself, exploded a bombshell in our midst. The judge ordered the receivership re-imposed on the Church and its related organizations. David Ray, a Beverly Hills attorney and accountant whom Title had requested ahead of time to be there, was named as the new receiver. The court acknowledged that defendants had a right to take an appeal and did not "find that taking the appeal in and of itself... was... per se violative of... any order made by the court..." but that its practical effect was to frustrate the court's order permitting the audit. This, commented the court, "has to make a reasonable mind suspicious that perhaps someone out there doesn't want that audit, for whatever the reason." In other words, even though one conscientiously believes that one has a Constitutional right not to be audited and resists on that basis, which was enough to make Judge Title suspicious. This one statement, better than anything else, reinforced the implication, which leaped out of the record, that the action taken by the court was retaliatory in nature and intended to punish the defendants for exercising their right of appeal.
Word of the appointment of a new receiver was heard with alarm by the membership. Once again, as they did less than two months earlier, men, women, and children converged on headquarters in a massive protest demonstration. Once again families poured in from all over, with suitcases, sleeping bags, Bibles, games for the children, sandwiches, and coffee jugs, determined to remain until this new burden was lifted. As before, they stationed themselves inside the building, human barricades against the imposition of the court order they deemed illegal. They were there for prayer and meditation, and, as in the earlier demonstration, they were prepared to go to jail rather than have their Church taken over by an outsider. Our attorneys instantly filed an appeal. Pending its outcome, Judge Title required the Church to post a $1 million bond if we wanted to keep the new receiver away. On Tuesday evening, just a day after the new order was announced and the new sit-in begun, a new miracle occurred. Aaron and Kevin Dean conceived the idea of organizing a vast telephone appeal to raise the needed money. With the aid of about a dozen volunteers, they manned the phones on the fourth floor of the Administration Building, calling churches all over the United States and Canada. They asked each one to name three members who would, in turn, call other members in their areas. The results were little short of incredible. By next morning, $200,000 was received in cash, flown and wired in from all over; by afternoon, the total had swelled to $400,000. By then, the appeal had switched from cash to pledges as surety for the bond. The campaign continued for forty-eight hours, during which the Dean brothers and their aides got virtually no sleep. On Thursday evening, the phone blitz had brought in pledges well beyond the required sum, and before the week was out, the total had reached $3.4 million! Many hundreds of members responded, signing affidavits in which they pledged anywhere from $100 to as much as $50,000 and higher. The affidavits guaranteed that the signers would come up with cash if it was needed. As collateral for the pledges of $2,000 and more, the members listed assets ranging from jewelry, bank accounts, and automobiles to their homes and furniture. In court, we posted the surety-backed bond, which was accepted by Judge Title. After a final service, the members who had come a second time to defend their church left for home, smiles on their faces. We could afford to smile, too, but not to relax. While we had regained control over our own affairs, our appeals were moving slowly through the courts, which march in slow cadence. The prohibitory portions of the court's injunctions were still in effect. The threat that some outsider could once again intrude into our midst hung over our heads like a sword of Damocles, and would not be removed until a final decision had been made. We had been seriously crippled, but thanks to our strength and the remarkable joining of hands by our members, we were still alive and fighting hard to prove that California authorities had no legal right to climb over the high wall separating religion from government. We had some breathing room, but we could not breathe easily — not until the peril to us and all religions in America was ended.