Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ernest Angley gets away with enslaving his employees...

About four years ago, I wrote a blog post about a sex scandal that was going on at Ernest Angley's Grace Cathedral.  Former members were accusing Angley of some very unsavory stuff.  Some said he encouraged them to have abortions or vasectomies.  Church members who left were apparently publicly disdained in church services.  And... then there was the scandal regarding the Cathedral Buffet.

Angley was accused of getting church members to work at his for-profit restaurant for free or less than minimum wage.  Apparently, Angley told the members that they were doing the Lord's work when they worked at the restaurant he's owned since 1971.  in 2014, one former member, Greg Mulkey, said he worked for the church's station, sang with one of the groups, gave voice lessons to choir members, and worked at the buffet for minimum wage ($4.25 an hour at the time).  And he was not paid for overtime, yet was expected to work as many as sixteen hours a week, every single day.

In 1999, a Cathedral Buffet volunteer worker was stabbed to death by another volunteer worker.  Because of the crime committed, authorities got a glimpse of what was going on at the restaurant.  The use of volunteer workers at for-profit restaurants is prohibited, so the Department of Labor got involved.  Church leadership agreed to stop the practice, but after the heat was off, they resumed using volunteers at the restaurant.  Managers were also asked to get rid of documentation that would prove the illegal practices were happening.

The music in this ad was popularly used in commercials from the 1980s... as well as a McDonald's training video!

Since the 2014 scandal, Ernest Angley's ministry has been scrutinized.  A lawsuit was filed by former church members who were stiffed by the ministry.  In late 2016, a U.S. District Judge ruled against Angley and his church and ordered them to pay back wages of about $388,000.  A month later, the restaurant closed.

Naturally, Angley appealed the ruling.  This week, a three judge panel for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the original ruling.  The basis for overturning the original ruling was that the volunteers knew they were working for free and did not expect to be paid.  Therefore, the law was not broken.  So... that means that the people who worked for Angley, doing the "Lord's work" for free, are going to be stiffed again.

On the surface, maybe it sounds like the judges were right not to order Angley to pay.  After all, we live in a free society and the workers chose to work for free.  Except there is good evidence that maybe they didn't.  I have read a bit about Angley's ministry.  To me, it sounds awfully culty.  All kinds of weird shit was going on, according to Bob Dyer's excellent series about Grace Cathedral posted in October 2014.

A news item about the 2014 scandal.

People who are in a cult-like environment are vulnerable to being brainwashed and coerced.  That doesn't matter, though, because apparently the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals says there is a difference between economic coercion and spiritual coercion.  The workers at Cathedral Buffet were being "spiritually coerced", so that kind of coercion doesn't count.  It doesn't matter that the oddly charismatic Angley was threatening them with God's wrath, rather than threatening them financially.

A news item about Bridget Pollard.  Ernest Angley took advantage of her mental illness.

Angley is pretty much a scumbag, anyway.  Last year, he managed to swindle an elderly woman with dementia out of $340,000 by talking her into signing a check.  76 year old Bridget Pollard, who is under the care of the Cook County Public Guardian, gave Angley her life's savings.  The government agency has sued Angley to get the money back, saying he took advantage of her mental incompetency.  Although Pollard had only been to Grace Cathedral a few times, somehow Corliss Whitney, a singer at the church, managed to get power of attorney to act on Pollard's behalf.  Although Pollard was living in filth and should have been moved into a facility where she could be properly attended, Whitney used Pollard's life savings as a church donation.

I do wonder how it is that people still listen to Angley, who is 96 years old and has the worst rug I've ever seen on a man.  What is it about him that makes him so attractive to his followers?  It's hard to tell.  He really is a sleaze, though.