Rev. Loy Craig Martindale resigned from the presidency of The Way International on April 20, 2000 in response to a lawsuit filed by former staff members Paul and Frances (Fern) Allen. Martindale acknowledged one element of the lawsuit-- a sexual relationship with Fern Allen-- but declared all the charges of the suit to be false.
Rosalie Rivenbark has replaced Martindale as president, with Harve (Harvey) Platig taking her place as Trustee. John Reynolds keeps his place on the three member Board of Trustees (BOT), which has complete control of all legal, spiritual and administrative aspects of The Way International (TWI).
The leadership change was announced to TWI leadership via live phone hookups on April 25 and to scores of TWI fellowships (formerly called "twigs") via hookups on April 27. Although all of the trustees spoke in the live conferences, none of them addressed the lawsuit which prompted Martindale's resignation.
Martindale told his followers that he was resigning in order to insure that TWI would survive and thrive, to maintain good working relationships in society, and to take care of his wife and children.
TWI said that Martindale will continue to be involved in the work of TWI. The five Emeritus trustees of the past all retired with honor due to age or other personal limitations. Martindale is the first to retire as a Trustee at a relatively young age and in dishonorable circumstances, yet may be considered Emeritus.
Martindale entered Ways Corps (leadership) training out of college in about 1970, was ordained by TWI in 1974, and replaced founder Victor Paul Wierwille as president in 1982. He weathered the "fog years" of the late 1980s when tens of thousands of Wayers left TWI to form splinter groups. Since that time he has worked to remake TWI in his own image, replacing all of the founder's classes with his own, requiring new terminology, establishing himself as "the Man of God for our Day" who must be obeyed, and eliminating much of Wierwille's influence. In the light of Martindale's self-promoting campaign, his resignation is especially surprising.
Rosalie Rivenbark, the new president, replaced Wierwille's son Donald as trustee only three years ago after spending about 20 years on TWI staff in many capacities. However, she has worked mainly behind the scenes rather than in the public spotlight. This requires TWI to adjust its view of the Presidency, since former presidents have been the highly visible head teacher as well as administrator.
Rivenbark is also the first president to be divorced. Although one of her two sons graduated from Way Family Corps II with her in 1978 as a child, neither has been significantly active in TWI. Rivenbark lives off campus near the New Knoxville, Ohio, headquarters in a house with a pool and cats. This is remarkable, since TWI staff typically live in very austere conditions and are forbidden to own large pets. Two female TWI staff lived with her for many years, which fueled rumors, especially in the light of Martindale's vitriolic condemnations of homosexuality. They recently left their positions in New Knoxville and apparently have left TWI..
Platig, who is said to dislike the name "Harvey," was formerly the Western Region Coordinator, overseeing several hundred Way followers in California and Hawaii. He doubled as the California Limb (state) Coordinator. He graduated from the 9th Way Corps in about 1982, served in many capacities, and once taught TWI's Rise and Expansion class. Long time followers of TWI remember him best as guitarist for the Way country-western band Branded and his later work with Way Productions.
Since Rivenbark has been a trustee for only three years, and Reynolds only two years, the board is short on experience.
Lawsuit Charges TWI Leadership With Fraud, Sexual Abuse
The leadership changes were prompted by a lawsuit filed against TWI leaders in the Shelby County Court of Common Pleas by Paul and Frances Allen on April 4. 2000.
The Allens (no relation to former TWI trustee Howard Allen), who were followers of TWI for about 20 years, resigned from the 25th Way Corps and their staff positions at TWI's New Knoxville Headquarters on March 23, 1999. Paul soon launched a web site, www.waydale.com to expose TWI's corrupt practices. The site includes many TWI internal documents, recordings of shocking statements by Way leaders, notes of talks by leaders, photographs and chat forums for current and former followers of TWI.
The Allens say that Way leadership did not recognize and take responsibility for their abusive actions toward the Allens when the Allens approached them privately, which led them to file suit.
The lawsuit was filed against TWI, Martindale, Rivenbark, Reynolds, former trustees Donald Wierwille and Howard Allen, TWI staffer Ramona Bidon, and up to 50 additional unnamed TWI leaders for actions taken against the Allens since they became associated with TWI in 1978.
The lawsuit asserts that TWI leads followers to be "economically and psychologically dependent" on TWI, and charges TWI with six counts of wrongdoing. 1
Count One, Breach of Contract, asserts that TWI promised the Allens material benefits if they would abandon friends, employment and regular income to take Corps training and become TWI employees. The suit claims that TWI created "impossible working conditions including requiring plaintiffs to submit to sexual assault as a condition of continued employment."
Count Two, Assault and Intentional Affliction of Emotional Distress, claims that the Allens were under "undue influence and psychological control" due to "extreme and torturous methods sued to control adherents to The Way." Bidon then began a campaign to coerce Frances Allen to engage in sexual activity with Martindale from 1996 through 1999. Martindale and Bidon "succeeded in sexually victimizing" Frances because she was "incapable of consenting to such sexual activities" due to these psychological controls.
These two assertions eventually led Martindale to admit an adulterous relationship with Fern Allen and to resign.
Count Three, Fraud in a Fiduciary Capacity, asserts that TWI defrauded the Allens of money and other things of value, and subjected them to humiliation for the leaders' own amusement.
Count Four, Defamation, claims that TWI labels the Allens "mark and avoid" after they resigned and knowingly made false statements about the Allens in order to damage their reputation.
Count Five, Civil Conspiracy, alleges that TWI leaders were acting in concert to achieve a common, unlawful purpose.
Count Six, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO), alleges that TWI leadership engaged in a "pattern of corrupt activity" including "acts of theft, fraud, coercion, assault and rape."
Each of the six counts calls for damages of two to five million dollars, totaling $54 million. The suit demands a jury trial. The Allens seem intent on exposing specific wrongful and unlawful acts of TWI, and have made a public call for people to send them documents, photographs, or personal testimony that will help document their complaint.
The core of the lawsuit is not just the separate allegations, but the assertion that the actions were done by TWI leaders in their capacities as TWI leaders, and in concert with each other.
During early April, while the trustees were considering the Allen's suit, followers of TWI were involved in a child custody court hearing in Colorado. Nancy Bennett (the children's mother in the case and Advanced Class graduate) and Way Corps Maria Karwin testified in defense of TWI practices.
However, testimony on behalf of the father recounted incidents regarding four separate women who allegedly were sexually exploited by Martindale. This kind of testimony may support the Allens' claim that there is a pattern of corrupt activity which agents of TWI engage in, and that TWI agents use coercion and manipulative controls to induce women into sexual relationships with Martindale which they don't want. Testimony also alleged that TWI leaders use control, abuse, manipulation and isolation on TWI followers. This testimony (which could later be introduced in an Allen trial) may partly explain Martindale's unexpected resignation.
Since the case involved child custody rather than charges made against TWI, no ruling was made on whether or not there was any wrongdoing on the part of TWI and Martindale. However, the court did acknowledge that TWI is a dangerous organization with questionable objectives and which should be monitored.2
Timothy Goodwin filed a suit against TWI in 1976 which is similar in that it alleged fraud and breach of contract. Goodwin claimed he gave $210,000 to TWI in 1975 because TWI "falsely and fraudulently" promised he would be healed of injuries that made him a quadrapalegic. The donations included a Cadillac and BMW automobile for two TWI officials. The case was settled out of court in 1977 when TWI repaid all of Goodwin's donations. 3
Background on the Suit's Claims
Analysts have long accused TWI of using mind control techniques including, 1) making followers fearful that terrible things will happen to them if they disobey leadership, 2) requiring strict obedience even on minor issues, 3) requiring only approved language and jargon, 4) requiring followers to block out all information from outside the group, 5) imposing isolation from people and activities outside TWI, 6) constant indoctrination, 7) demanding that followers reveal and follow leaders' instruction regarding every detail of their lives, 8) "confronting," which amounts to severe and sustained verbal attack and abuse of followers who leaders determine to weak, and 9) requiring followers to shun those who question or leave the group, (which TWI and the law suit call "mark and avoid"). Even more control is forced up those in The Way Corps. 4
Literally thousands of Wayers have been "mark and avoid" over the years. This means that TWI leaders "mark" them as disobedient to leadership and a danger to others and then command all TWI followers to "avoid" and totally shun them. It is common for leaders to call meetings of followers in which they denigrate ex-Wayers who are "mark and avoid" and accuse them of many failings and errors.
The wording of the lawsuit reflects the content of the Guidelines on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace issued in 1980 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The guidelines describe sexual harassment as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature" when it is "explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment" or when the conduct has the effect of "interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment." Count 1 of the Allen suit specifically claims that TWI leadership was "creating impossible working conditions including requiring Plaintiffs to submit to sexual assault as a condition of continued employment."
While some harassment happens between employees without the employer's knowledge, the employer is most culpable when managers or agents for the employer do the harassing. The Allen suit repeats the claim that employees for TWI were acting as agents, within the scope of their agency, and in concert with each other. The suit also emphasizes that Ramona Bidon was "acting as procuress" for Martindale, emphasizing the agency and conspiracy.
When the EEOC investigates an accusation of harassment, it looks at the context and totality of circumstances. This may be one reason that the Allens have asked for other ex-followers of TWI to send them documentation of other harassment, since this could show that the Allens' case wasn't unusual. Since Martindale has recorded around 1,000 teachings and none of them address sexual sin or misconduct, it will be hard for TWI to establish that he as President promoted an atmosphere of sexual purity. TWI may also be hard pressed to show that it proactively tried to prevent sexual harassment among employees through training, expressing disapproval, developing sanctions and informing employees of their rights. While the courts will consider the case rather than the EEOC, they will consider many of the same things. 5
TWI Reaction to the Lawsuit
TWI public relations head and associate Corps coordinator Rico Magnelli held a news conference in which TWI dismissed the lawsuit as false and without basis.
The Way trustees made a statement which denied the accusations made in the lawsuit: "The Way International retained Baker and Hostetler L.L.P. of Cleveland, Ohio, to investigate claims made in the Allens' lawsuit after it was threatened about a month ago. They were given free reign to interview privately whomever they chose to speak with and they did. They found no basis for the claims that have been made in the lawsuit. The Way International simply does not function in the way the Allens have asserted.
"We believe that the lawsuit is part of an organized campaign to destroy The Way International. We will aggressively defend these claims and will vigorously pursue all legal remedies that we have. We will have no further comment on this litigation until it is concluded."
It's not surprising that TWI thinks that there is an organized campaign to destroy TWI. A flood of web sites launched by ex-followers of TWI have appeared on the World Wide Web in recent years. The Allens' WayDale and this author's messiah7 web sites have published large amounts of information which TWI considers threatening. Ex-followers of TWI also sponsored a billboard near the New Knoxville headquarters which asked current Wayers to visit an ex-Way web site. The billboard was soon defaced and the web address was painted over.
However, this activity is not an organized campaign, but a grassroots outcry from thousands who say they have been damaged by involvement in TWI. The Internet's ability to bring together ex-Wayers spread around the country have simply provided a means for them to learn from and link up with each other.
Martindale Admits Fault
In spite of claims of innocence, soon after the lawsuit was filed Martindale took a leave of absence from his duties at TWI. The Sunday Teaching Services at which he speaks were suspended for several weeks.
Magnelli's press release included a prepared statement by Martindale in which he admits having sexual relations with Frances Allen, but denies that she was coerced: "Frances Allen and I had an affair that ended at least two years ago. When confronted about this approximately one year ago, I immediately admitted it to my wife and to the Board of Trustees, with full apologies and remorse. I also apologized to Paul Allen and offered whatever help I could to heal the mistakes that had been made." Martindale added that the suit "grossly mischaracterizes the relationship I had with Frances Allen, which was mutually consensual." 6
Many followers of TWI are ready to excuse and accept Martindale even after admitting his
adultery. They dismiss it as a "mistake" or a "stumble" which should be forgiven. But there are
reports of several hundred followers leaving TWI in response to the suit and Martindale's
admission, possibly including whole branches (city-wide groups of 40-100 Wayers). Pacific
Northwest Region Coordinators Paul and Bev Mosqueda and Midwest Region Coordinators Alan
and Debbie Licht and a half dozen branch coordinators are said to be among them. Since these
are all Corps graduates, this represents a severe loss of committed leadership, along with many of
the followers who look to them for leadership.
1 The text of the lawsuit and related articles are available at Paul Allen's web site, www.waydale.com
2 Information on the case can be found in "Colorado Law Suit" in the "Lawsuit" related threads on the WayDale.com Forums, April 13, 2000.
3 Times-Bulletin, Van Wert, Ohio, Feb. 5, 1979, p. 14 and letter from Goodwin's attorney Craig Spangenberg, Oct. 26, 1977.
4 For details, see "Mind Control in The Way International and the Poisoning of Families" and "The Way 'Robot Corps'" by John Juedes on line at www.empirenet.com/~messiah7
5 Sec. 1604.11 Sexual Harassment, as quoted and explained in Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, Juliana Lightle and Betsy Doucet, Crisp Publ. 1992.
6 Wapakoneta Daily News, April 8, 2000
Dr. John Juedes, 2000
Messiah Lutheran Church, Highland CA 909-862-2923
Return to The Way Today Menu