It seemed like a repeat performance. In less than an hour, about 1,400 members of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) flocked to the Pasadena, California, headquarters of the 70,000-member sect to block a court-appointed receiver from entering the ornate buildings and taking over its financial affairs.

The sense of deja vu stemmed from the fact that it was the second time in two months that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Julius M. Title had imposed a receiver on the beleaguered church, and it was the second time church loyalists had rallied behind patriarch Herbert W. Armstrong, 86 (who remained secluded in Tucson, Arizona), and Armstrong’s chief aide, church treasurer Stanley Rader, to stave off a state probe of church records.

This time, Rader and a battery of four law firms representing the church (running up six-figure fees) insisted they would take the case all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, if necessary, on grounds that First Amendment protections guaranteed them sanctity of records, both ecclesiastical and financial. There seemed to be reasonable grounds to think the appeal-studded case just might get to the high court, while becoming a classic church-state confrontation on the way.

The first receiver, Stephen Weisman, was appointed in early January and got into Ambassador College and Worldwide Church offices to begin the audit (Feb. 2, 1979, issue, p. 43, and Feb. 16, 1979, p. 43). But he soon quit, claiming that non-cooperation by church officials made his job impossible. And Judge Title lifted the receivership, substituting an injunction, saying the audit could be accomplished just as easily by auditors working directly with church employees and the state attorney general’s office. (The attorney general ...

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