Against the Gates of Hell

Part I

Excerpts from Stan Raders book-
“Against the gates of hell: The threat to religious freedom in America”

Against the Gates of Hell "What is it about the gates of Hell that compels people to wander into it?"
Against the Gates of Hell
“What is it about the gates of Hell that compels people to wander into it?”

Throughout religious history, no church has ever been able to avoid internal strife. The Worldwide Church of God was not so naive as to think it could escape its share of dissent, for nothing engages man’s deepest emotions so much as religious beliefs. Every schoolchild knows about the schism that developed within the Roman Catholic Church in the ninth century, which, two centuries later, resulted in the separation of the Greek Church from the Roman Communion. And of the great split that occurred in the late fourteenth century, healed forty years later at the Council of Constance; and, of course, of the Protestant Reformation that came about in the 1500s as a result of another division. Large religious bodies, those of lesser size, and those on far smaller scales have had — and probably always will have factional strife.

So we knew of and expected problems with some disgruntled former members. And they came. Some were motivated by sincere, deeply held beliefs, others impelled by less honorable reasons. All, however, were settled as the Church grew.

In recent years, we had known that a few dissenters had been dissatisfied with the way tithes and voluntary contributions, upon which our Church depends for its financial support, were being utilized to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in our Church. Trouble had been in the air, but few believed it was serious. We knew our house was in order, and we were fully confident of answering all questions satisfactorily and handling all problems.

Nobody expected the state of California to engineer a shocking and lawless takeover move to support the claims of a handful of former members. Nor one conducted with such a mind-boggling disregard of legal procedures and the civil rights of the individuals and the spiritual body against which it was directed.

Later I would learn that the invasion had been planned and conducted like a military coup d’etat, complete with armed officers instructed to “use all force necessary.” The terrifying details were to come to light in the astonishing days and weeks that were to follow.

Suspecting that something highly unusual, if not evil, was about to erupt, Virginia dialed my home telephone. As she did so, she glanced at the glass door and saw two burly men walking down the corridor toward the executive office. My wife, Natalie (“Niki”) answered the phone but Virginia now had no time for explanations. “Please ask Mr. Rader to call as soon as he arrives,” she told Niki. “It’s an emergency.” At that moment I was on my way home to shower, dress, and come to the office.

Virginia stood in the doorway as one of the stranger’s — in his middle-thirties, six feet tall, with dark wavy hair and a swarthy complexion — came up. Behind him was a black man, taller and heavier.

“What can I do for you?” Virginia asked quietly, though admitted later her heart was racing.

“I’ve come to take over,” the first man said, thrusting a sheaf of papers at her.

“Who are you?” Virginia demanded.

For the first time, the man identified himself. “I’m Rafael Chodos,” he said, “acting on behalf of Judge Steven Weisman. He’s the receiver and he’s now in charge.” Chodos is a private attorney with offices in Beverly Hills. Weisman is a retired judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Virginia was not intimidated. “I don’t know you from Adam,” she said firmly. “And you’re not coming in here to take over anything until I talk to the attorney for this Church and the college.” She half expected the two men to force their way into the office but they remained outside the door.

The call director on her desk flashed. Virginia called to young Michelle Dean, one of her assistants, to guard the door while she answered. Feisty little Mickey Dean, barely five feet tall and well under 100 pounds, glared at the invaders and they glared back, but they did not move from the entrance. “Go get your camera,” said the one called Chodos, “and take a picture of her, for our files in case we have to arrest her.” Mickey would not be intimidated. “Take a picture if you want to,” she told them, “but you’re still not coming in.”

I arrived at my home, which is about a half mile from the college, at 9:00 A.M. My wife met me at the door and told me to call Virginia. I could tell at once that Virginia was under considerable emotional stress but controlling herself. She explained what was happening: “They’re trying to take over.” “Who’s trying to take over what?” “They say they’re receivers and that they’re going to take possession. They’re on the other side of the door.” Less than a dozen feet from where she was calling, tiny Mickey was standing like Horatius at the Tiber Bridge, holding off the Etruscan army to Protect Rome. Are they private people or state people?” I asked. She replied “That they seemed to be private lawyers. In that case,” I told her, “call Security and have them thrown out. Lock the door. And keep them out until we find out what this is all about.” That was all Virginia needed to hear. “Fine,” she responded. “I’ll do just that.” And she did. At the door, she told the two men: “Our attorney says that until he has had time to study your papers, you are not allowed in this office.” So saying, she shut the door in their faces and turned the bolt. A moment later my phone rang again. Virginia reported that, for the time being at least, the office was secure.

More to come…