Saturday, September 17, 2016

Documentation of Roderick C Meredith Inappropriate Behavior

The purpose of this paper is to document the inappropriate and even criminal behavior of Roderick C. Meredith and the succession of church corporations he has founded (primarily Global Church of God [GCG] and Living Church of God [LCG], but stretching back into Worldwide Church of God [WCG] days as his behavior was problematic at that time as well).  The impetus to collect this evidence came from the discovery of the Scarborough defamation lawsuit against LCG and Mr. Meredith.  Subsequent investigation revealed a pattern of troublesome behavior, for which I wanted to verify and collect clear evidence.  The evidence shows behavior reported by several people across a diversity of circumstances and time which completely invalidate any ministerial or leadership credentials Mr. Meredith might claim, barring complete repentance (i.e. a clear change in behavior and disposition). 

With respect to the evidence presented below, I have included as many unbiased sources as possible.  However, I have also included sources that would be considered as enemies of the church and God's way of life in general (and who make this agenda clear).  The reason for including these is that the truth is the truth no matter who says it.  If these sources, regardless of their ideology or agenda, are telling the truth, we can't rightly disregard it.

Though I will be dealing with a lot of US legal arguments, it is most important to remember that God's church is subject to God's law above man's law.  In this case, God's standard is far stricter on things like slander and defamation than any US standard based on the freedom provided under the First Amendment.  What this means is that we as followers of God should never even come close to slander and defamation by the world's definition, and if we do, it represents a major departure from the Godly standard.

Narrative

Though there seem to many problematic behaviors demonstrated by Mr. Meredith, this narrative will primarily revolve around the lawsuits for defamation and slander directed at Mr. Meredith, and the very public dispute between Mr. Meredith and the board of directors at GCG that launched LCG.

First lawsuit -- McNair v. Worldwide Church of God (WCG)

Leona McNair, ex-wife of Raymond McNair, filed suit against WCG, Raymond McNair, and Roderick Meredith for libel, slander, intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and conspiracy. [1]  The first trial commenced on July 3, 1984, and resulted in a jury awarding damages of $1.26 million to Leona McNair on August 23, 1984[1].  This verdict was appealed and overturned by the California State Court of Appeal on December 30, 1987, which ordered a retrial[1][2].  The retrial case was dismissed on October 21, 1988 [2].  The suit was finally settled out of court for $750,000 in 1992 (reported by Pasadena Star News 11/21/1992), with WCG/Meredith admitting no wrongdoing [3].  Incidentally, Global Church of God was subsequently founded in December 1992. 

The essential crux of the case against Meredith was based on awful statements that he made both in writing and verbally (recorded) before an audience of around 1,000 people.  Because of the fact that all statements were recorded and are widely attested, they are not disputable at this point (and no one ever disputed the statements themselves through the entire history of the court case)[1][2][3].  Because the statements are so widely known, I won't include the bulk of them here, other than a few highlights by way of example.  I encourage the reader to review the statements in their entirety to grasp just how wildly inappropriate they were, particularly before a wide audience by a person claiming to be a minister of Jesus Christ.  Here are some highlights:

"...his [Raymond McNair's] first wife had left the church and was virtually cursing him, cursing Mr. Armstrong, with curse words, spitting literally in people's faces and as hateful as a human being could be... And so after about two solid years of living without a wife and a virtual hell on earth Mr. McNair was encouraged ... to put her away and divorce her since she was just simply wanting to keep him on the string and get a free ride while she cursed him and would not have anything to do with him. There was not even a way of saying hello in a friendly way, living in opposite ends of the house in an armed truce or an armed hell, and the way to do was to put her away..." --Verbal statements made before ministerial conference.[1]

"...a classic example of this would be Mr. Raymond McNair's situation. His wife refused to be a wife to him for over two years -- to sleep with him, cook for him, or even civilly communicate with him in a decent manner. Rather, she had left God's Church and was actively Fighting God's Church and Mr. McNair, turning his children against him and literally cursing him to his face. Finally, upon advice of Mr. Armstrong and Ted Armstrong, he was finally forced to make legal the already existing Fact that she had deserted him and was no longer his wife in any way whatsoever." --June 25, 1979, Pastor's Report, authored by Meredith [1].

The most important thing to note about these statements is that they were not true.  In fact, the record shows that Mr. McNair was the one actively doing the deserting, not the other way around (note that in this source, Mr. McNair is referred to as "McNair" and Mrs. McNair is referred to as the "respondent"):

Their personal relationship deteriorated rapidly. McNair removed respondent from the checking account, temporarily denied respondent use of the family car, and told her he'd rather she not pursue her career plan. Respondent refused to acquiesce, and in January, 1975, McNair moved out of their bedroom. [1] (emphasis mine)

Regardless of the outcome in the courts, there can be absolutely no doubt that the statements made by Mr. Meredith related to this case were slanderous and completely unrighteous by the definitions in God's Word.  Neither the WCG nor Mr. Meredith ever admitted wrongdoing or apologized for this behavior (in any record I can find).  In fact, the behavior clearly continues to the present time, making it a pattern rather than an anomaly.

Meredith v. GCG Dispute

While I hadnt originally intended to include this, the behavior I discovered in the course of researching this topic is absolutely abhorrent and falls right in line with the behavior that resulted in both lawsuits against Mr. Meredith.  Quite frankly, the behavior in this case could have rightly resulted in a third lawsuit or even criminal charges.  This shows that the behavior he is being (and was previously) sued for is not an anomaly but a particularly awful pattern.

First, we start with Mr. Meredith attacking his own fellow ministers on the GCG board of directors (again, I encourage the reader to look more deeply into this) via letter dated 11/21/1998 [4]:

But, other men came on the Board and the Council - men I have now come to realize had a great deal of personal ambition...

...these misguided, but very political individuals are beginning to follow the pattern of those dissidents who tried to unseat Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong...

You would have to experience the atmosphere of profound disrespect, envy, jealousy and open HOSTILITY displayed in some of our Council and Board meetings to really grasp the impact of what I am talking about....

These men who have made these threatening political moves and comments toward me seem to have NO FAITH in the Living Christ to lead His Church ... Increasingly, our meetings have become more like a debating society. Each "side" has to divide up their constituents and propagandize them before a "vote" is taken on key issues. That is worldly. That is DAMNABLE! ...

Then, they began to call in, one by one, a number of leading employees here - known to be loyal to me - and proceeded to lecture, frighten and/or intimidate them. Has another "reign of terror" begun? In addition to the above matter, I have learned - on very good authority - that several "secret" contacts have been made behind my back with another church fellowship. ... This is blatant rebellion and even DISLOYALTY ...

Therefore, until these disloyal and deceived men back down, or leave, I am asking all of you faithful brethren to send all of your tithes and offerings in care of me to ...

Sounds like a pretty awful bunch, and there are some pretty serious accusations here.  Here are excerpts from their response in a joint letter signed by Larry Salyer, Raymond F. McNair, J. Edwin Pope, and Norbert Link (the letter in the source is undated, but dates cited within the letter put it sometime after 11/25/1998) [4] (emphasis mine):

We, the remaining Board members, must respectfully but categorically deny the long list of charges and accusations contained in Dr. Meredith's letter. We consider the letter extremely libelous. Particularly alarming is the fact that Dr. Meredith revealed in his letter that he was already setting up a competing corporation and that he was asking members to send all their tithes and offerings to his personal address, while still in the employ of Global and drawing his paycheck from Global. In addition, we consider this to be a breach of his fiduciary duties as an officer of the corporation. ...

Then, late Monday afternoon [23 Nov.], ... we learned that more than a quarter of a million dollars had suddenly been drained from Global's bank account, through the use of unauthorized checks, signed by Dr. Meredith and another individual who had no power to sign any checks. Further, one six-figure check was payable to the very person who signed it without authority. Thankfully, [being notified of this] allowed us to stop payment of those unauthorized checks. But we learned that fully one half million dollars was moved from our investment account to the operating account to cover the checks. The only conclusion we can draw from this even larger unauthorized transfer of funds is that even more unauthorized checks were planned to be written later. A logical conclusion considering that all of this was done in secrecy!

By the way, these actions were justified by saying that the money was being used to pay back loans to individuals. Maybe so, but that process always involves authorization and is done according to strict agreements and payback schedules agreed to by all parties. In this case, the loans were not due and payable, and the checks were hand-written, apparently outside office hours, and not through the person who is responsible for such checks. The immediate effect would have been to put the Global Church of God in financial jeopardy and on the verge of bankruptcy. When pointed out that this action, in our opinion, might potentially constitute criminal activity, Dr. Meredith suggested that we could just tell the bank that the signer was a 68-year-old man who didn't quite know what he was doing. ...

Reading the letter [Dr. Meredith's original letter, cited above -ed] at the meeting, we were appalled at the distortion of facts, imaginary incidents, and the invective with which they were presented. All four additional men on the Board had been accused of everything from rebellion to conspiracy, and even a cancerous attitude. ...

Eventually, after much discussion, he went so far as to say that he would be willing to write a letter that would mollify what he had said. Nevertheless, Dr. Meredith would not retract the basic, libelous content of the letter.

In a later letter, dated 11/27/1998, the same group from the board wrote more on the topic [4] (emphasis mine):

Also, an increased willingness on Dr. Meredith's part to speak derogatorily about others was observed, opening ourselves up to defamation lawsuits. In the past, the Worldwide Church of God was sued and found liable for 1.26 million dollars because of, in part, defamatory comments made by Dr. Meredith....

Repeated misstatements and contradictions were frequently brought to Dr. Meredith's attention, yet he refused to recognize and correct the problems. Faced with what he saw as undue criticism from his associates and staff, Dr. Meredith's attention became increasingly defensive and suspicious. He wanted us to show him "more respect," and defer to him even when we felt that doing so would compromise our integrity. The record now shows that he began to seek sympathetic ears among the field ministry and the brethren and to engage in character assassination of the most appalling nature. Headquarters ministers were painted as power-hungry. No one could be trusted. People were part of a conspiracy to investigate his every action and to remove him from his office....
Rumor and gossip became commonplace. The Director of Church Administration was referred to as "Absalom," who through political actions, would try to steal the Church....

He dropped casual comments that so-and-so "should be fired." He referred to them by disparaging names. Again discord was sown and people's lives were terribly damaged.... Things came to a head during the Council of Elders meeting of November 10, 1998. He conducted an "inquisition" against a field pastor and Council member in a manner that could only be described as "malicious." Dr. Meredith came in prepared to take a stand as "sole leader" of the Church. ... a meeting was called for Thursday, November 19, When Dr. Meredith came into the meeting, he started with a lecture and told us we needed to repent of our attitudes toward him. He said, "I am going to play hardball."....

I should note at this point that this is not an attempt to isolate blame in this particular situation on Mr. Meredith.  It's only fair to point out that there really are no good guys here (read the entire exchange and that will become pretty clear).  However, the narrative revolves more around Mr. Meredith's actions/words because that is the main topic at hand.

Current lawsuit -- Scarborough v. Living Church of God (LCG)

In addition to court documents , the Scarboroughs have written an open letter describing their treatment in the case.  True to form, LCG has chosen to do their best to cover up the situation and seek to resolve it solely via legal means rather than do the right thing -- which is revealing of itself.

The complaint was originally filed on September 21, 2015 [9 - p.133] against LCG, Mr. Meredith, and Rod McNair for the intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation of character (slander) -- which is exactly the same as the original McNair lawsuit.  Here are some excerpts from the Scarborough's open letter [5] (emphasis mine):

Patrick and I have recently run into several of the Charlotte LCG brethren in different places while running errands around town. We were shocked to learn that they consistently believed that we had left the church and didnt want to come back. Im not sure if these was assumption on their parts or, if that is what people are being lead to believe from leadership. Nonetheless, we wanted to clear things up so you would have our side of things to put an end to the speculation once and for all.

...[we had] our names and reputations dragged through the mud for THINGS WE NEVER EVEN DID WITHOUT SO MUCH AS EVEN ONE COUNSELING SESSION....

                We even called Mr. Meredith directly one day ... but he said I cant talk and hung up...

... [we received] a phone call from Mr. League and Mr. McNair the next morning saying that we were dis-fellowshipped per Mr. Meredith.  We were caught completely off-guard and totally devastated. There was no mention of being marked.  But then, two days later we were marked from the pulpit by Mr. McNair without ever being told. We found out from a shocked member of the congregation who immediately sent us a text message notifying us of the marking. We subsequently received a Fed Exd letter a few days later notifying us of the marking. By this time we had already begun to call and write feverishly begging for counselling [sic]; begging to work this out as Christians, as brothers and sisters. None of our letters were replied to. None of our phone calls returned. However, they hand wrote this at the bottom of our marking letter [see below] so at least we know they were aware of the fact that we wanted to counsel.

Here again we see untrue public statements being made and a callous disregard for people's well-being.  The letter references a handwritten note, which is shown in an image at the same site as the letter.  The text reads as follows:

Dear Patrick,

Dr. Winnail told us you would like to get together to counsel.  We'd be happy to do that in six months, if we see fruits of repentance.  This period will give you time to fast, pray and examine yourself about this situation.  Contact us then, if you'd like to talk (in six months), and we'll get together.  We are praying for you. 

Warm Regards,
Rod McNair Bob League

This type of stonewalling continued for some time, with all representatives of LCG digging their heels in and refusing to deal with the situation (for over two years at this point).  Mrs. Scarborough summed it up succinctly in a subsequent letter [7]:

...they have opted to spend tens of thousands of dollars defending themselves instead of just sitting down with us like grown-ups (let alone Christians) and working through our problems.

The entire facts of the case (including the amended complaint and LCG's response) are now publically available (see citation 9 below).  Here are a few excerpts from the documents showing the allegations and some tellingly dishonest responses from LCG:

Paragraphs 1-4 are very basic, establishing the parties and their residency [9 - p. 218].  LCG denied (claimed insufficient knowledge) of even these simple things [9 - p. 52] that were on the complaint form itself [9 - p.214 for example]. 

Even more shockingly, they even denied knowledge of their own organization (paragraph 5) [9 - p. 52 and 218].  That speaks volumes about their level of honesty.  People are responsible for the statements they make, whether directly or through agents (such as lawyers or PR people).

More lies:
* They admit to claim 12 (hiring P. Scarborough) but claim no knowledge of claim 13 (that he had to relocate to take the job) [9 - p. 64 / 219].  Any HR department would know whether an employee had to relocate to accept a position. 

* They admit to general paragraphs 7-8 [9 - p. 52], but later deny the same thing in paragraph 29 [9 - p. 55].  They can't even keep their story straight on very simple things.

* Paragraphs 30-35 [9 - p. 221-222 / 55-56] discuss the initial meeting between the Scarboroughs and LCG reps.  LCG admits to the meeting but then denies knowledge of what was discussed. 

* Paragraphs 52, 54-55 [9 p. 223-224 / 57] discuss the content of Mr. Meredith's sermon.  LCG denies that Mr. Meredith gave the sermon following Mr. McNair's sermonette.  However, Mr. Meredith alludes to Mr. McNair's sermonette in the audio recording [10 - at 12:03].  He also made statements consistent with paragraph 54 [10 - 59:20-1:00:51 for example], and paragraph 55 [10 - 1:04:35-1:04:56].  Denying these statements is a flat-out lie.  Incidentally, LCG has apparently gone to great effort to remove all traces of this recording.  The link I found this edited version at originally (https://archive.org/details/gods-government-is-vital-r-meredith) has since disappeared.  Thankfully, I downloaded it when I found it and have now made it available in another location.

* Paragraphs 70-71 [9 - p. 225 / 58].  LCG admits to labeling the above sermon as a must-play, which disseminates it worldwide.  However, they deny that as a result of that it reached more than the original 250 people present for the live rendition.  Absolute nonsense. 

In addition to the lies above, there are several other interesting admissions by LCG that corroborate the Scarborough's story:

* Paragraphs 85-86 [9 - p.227 / 60].  LCG admits to the Facebook message from David Meredith to the Scarboroughs expressing sorrow at what happened to them, and admitting that they got "shafted".

* Paragraphs 110-112 [9 - p.230 / 62-63].  LCG admits to sending a form to the Scarboroughs to sign so as to release LCG from legal liability in the case.  This is very strange behavior on many levels.

There is much more in the source documentation that I would encourage the reader to explore in reaching their own conclusions.

As of this writing, the case has been dismissed (on 8/7/2016 [7]) due to ecclesiastical abstention.  Ecclesiastical abstention is also related to the First Amendment to the US Constitution, and means that US courts will tend to avoid becoming involved in disputes they determine to be religious in nature [8].  Importantly, the dismissal was (again) NOT related to the actual facts of the case. 

Conclusion

As I stated at the outset, much of the factual discussion above relates to US court decisions based on US law and interpretation.  However, while we as God's people do submit to these man-made laws when they do not conflict with God's law, we are nonetheless held to a higher standard.  Therefore, the question we must ask in this case is how does God's word judge this behavior?  Furthermore, how should the people of God's church treat each other?

It goes without saying what God thinks of lying, theft, political maneuvering, and general injustice and oppression.  Here is how members (minister or not) ought to behave toward one another (emphasis mine).  You can be the judge as to whether the behavior documented above matches this standard:

Eph 4:20-32  But you have not so learned Christ,  21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:  22  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,  23  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,  24  and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.  25  Therefore, putting away lying, "LET EACH ONE OF YOU SPEAK TRUTH WITH HIS NEIGHBOR," for we are members of one another.  26  "BE ANGRY, AND DO NOT SIN": do not let the sun go down on your wrath,  27  nor give place to the devil.  28  Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.  29  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.  30  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  31  Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  32  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. 

Jas 4:11  Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

Jas 3:10-17  Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.  11  Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?  12  Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.  13  Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.  14  But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.  15  This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.  16  For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.  17  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

On the other hand, here is how we should not be (emphasis mine):

2Ti 3:1-5  But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  2  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  3  unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,  4  traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  5  having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

God's word clearly and consistently speaks against the behavior documented above.  The evidence shows that this is a pattern of behavior and that the perpetrator is unrepentant despite having had the matter repeatedly brought to his attention over a period of decades.  Therefore, having been through all stages of notification and reprimand (Mat 18:15-17), it is up to the church of God as a whole to remove the offender pending a change of behavior (i.e. repentance - 1Co 5:2-5).  Failing that, it is our duty as individuals to turn away from such a person.  And we certainly should not be sending him or his organization any money -- which in any case will likely continue to be used to pay lawyers rather than for the work of God.
 
End Notes:
1. law.justia.com - "McNair v. Worldwide Church of God (1987)" - http://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/3d/197/363.html (accessed 8/9/2016)
2. LA Times - "Slander Suit Against Two Ministers, Church Founder Is Dismissed" - http://articles.latimes.com/1988-10-22/local/me-252_1_slander-suit (accessed 8/9/2016)
3. livingarmstrongism.blogspot.com - "Roderick C. Meredith's $750,000 Libel against Leona McNair" - http://livingarmstrongism.blogspot.com/2013/07/roderick-c-merediths-750000-libel.html (accessed 8/9/2016)
4. Ambassador Report - "Meredith Downsized" - http://www.hwarmstrong.com/ar/AR71.html (accessed 8/11/2016)
5. armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com - " Living Church of God: The Story Behind the Lawsuit...The Scarborough Letter " - http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2016/02/living-church-of-god-story-behind.html (accessed 8/13/2016)
6. Silenced - "LCG Being Sued by Former Members " - http://silenced.co/2016/02/scarborough-lcg-lawsuit/ (accessed 8/13/2016)
7. armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com - " UPDATED Exclusive: Elizabeth Scarborough Letter: Update on court case" - http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2016/08/exclusive-elizabeth-scarborough-letter.html (accessed 8/13/2016)
8. causeofactionelements.blogspot.com - " Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine (free exercise of religion)" - http://causeofactionelements.blogspot.com/2013/02/ecclesiastical-absention-doctrine-free.html (accessed 8/13/2016)
9. Court documents received from Mecklenburg County Superior court related to case 15-CVS-17573 - https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9S1AxHEzBabTEJMQ2FzTnBmelU (accessed 9/17/2016)
10. Audio recording (apparently edited) of RCM sermon "God's Government is Vital" - https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9S1AxHEzBabVmlZUzFUVmFBNW8

Other sources not directly cited:


* LA Times - "State Court Overturns $1.26-Million Libel Verdict Against Church" - http://articles.latimes.com/1987-12-31/local/me-7806_1_state-court (accessed 8/11/2016)

11 comments:

  1. Can't get the document to open about the court papers (no. 9 in the end notes). Any chance of a working link for them?

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    1. Number 9 is present when I view the post. You do have to download the file as it is too large to preview for most browsers.

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    2. Unfortunately when I try to download it I get an adobe error notice. This has happened not just on my computer but also someone else's too. Would love to see these documents so it would be great if you could help me access them. Thanks!

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    3. I've uploaded a new version of the file as the original appears to have been corrupted - apologies for the inconvenience. The link above is updated to: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9S1AxHEzBabTEJMQ2FzTnBmelU

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    4. Thank-you so much for this. It works perfectly now! I really appreciate you sorting it out.

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. I tried download link 9 with chrome on my phone and the PDF file didn't work so I tried downloading it with docs and from what I can tell it converted the file to a useless piece of meta data with my gmail info

    Stephen
    I am SO very sorry I messed
    up and I hope you can fix my flub.

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    1. I uploaded a new version of the file and updated the link above (https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9S1AxHEzBabTEJMQ2FzTnBmelU). Don't worry - it's nothing you did, the file was just corrupted.

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. Thanks for the upload hopefully I can OCR the file later today

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for the upload hopefully I can OCR the file later today

    ReplyDelete