Probe needed of cult's ties to Orange County pols

The National Educator/August 1991

By Robert E. Chalenor

For the past 1 year I have been informing my readers about a fundamentalist Christian religious cult operated by a twice convicted child abuser/molester Pastor Phil Aguilar. This group operates in Anaheim California and claims a membership of four thousand.

In my July column I provided additional information about Set Free and its controversy with another Orange County youth orientated fundamental Christian group, Calvary Chapel, which operates out of Costa Mesa in Orange County, California. I described this controversy as a turf was between two very similar religious cults. I also identified a common cause between Calvary Chapel and the anti-cult group known as the Christian Research Institute (CRI).

My columns are prepared and submitted for publication a month in advance. The July column was submitted for publication on May 2, and this month's column was submitted for publication on June 28, the end of the month.

The Orange County Register featured a six page expose of the Set Free cult. The entire Close-Up section of the newspaper documented nearly every allegation made in my previous columns. The Register cited both CRI and Calvary Chapel as major information sources for the story.

This feature article confirms that Set Free is operated by a convicted child molester. It confirms that this minister, Phil Aguilar, operates youth orientated group living houses in a small area of north-central Anaheim. This is an economically run-down area which is a prime candidate for urban renewal projects funded by the Federal Housing urban Development Agency.

The Register expose confirmed local political support for the Set Free group, principally from Anaheim Mayor Fred Hunter. Mayor Hunter is described as a friend of Aguilar for nearly 20 years.

The Register also identified the Trinity Broadcast Network (Jan and Paul Crouch) as founders of Set Free. TBN is the legal owner of at least two of Set Free's group homes. The Register did not, however, identify city garbage contractor and major local political contributor William Toramina as the legal owner of God's Casa, the residence of Aguilar, his family, and other church members (some 25 people total). Nor did the Register article mention the restoration of other properties in this area under the joint auspices of Aguilar, Toramina, and other well known Anaheim businessmen.

The bottom line of this Register expose was the revelation of activities by this religious cult and its political supporters which could lead to legal action for violations of legal, state and federal laws. Were HUD renewal federal funds used to rehabilitate these properties? Did Phil Aguilar violate IRS reporting requirements with regards to his personal possession and use of several hundred thousands of dollars of church owned assets? Is there a conflict of interest between city politicians, city contractors and their relationships with Set Free? According to the article, Set Free schools were operating in violation of the California State Education Code. What special privileges have been granted by the Anaheim city officials which permit the housing of 25 people in a single residence in this specific area?

As of the time I am preparing this column, nearly three weeks after the publication of the Set Free expose, there has not been any reported follow-up on the allegations cited or raised by the Register article.

The question here is how deeply are Orange County politicians involved in the promotion of this controversial religious group? Hopefully, these and related questions will be answered in the near future. Mixing politics and religion is a dynamite issue these days.

With regards to politics and religion, the current allegations against Los Angeles Assistant Police Chief Robert L. Vernon, raise some significant questions which are adding to the current Los Angeles Police Department operation investigations.

The Grace Community Church of Glendale, which appears to be the center of this controversy, has been involved in other controversial matters. This church was alleged to have contributed to the suicide of a young man who was being treated by the church's Christian Counseling Services. The parents of the suicide victim were unsuccessful in their court action seeking damages for alleged psychological counseling malpractice.

And, of course, speaking of alleged psychological counseling misleads brings us to the latest episodes in Orange County's Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) court trials. You may remember, in my previous columns, I reported that the jury found a 76-year-old mother guilty of negligence in the allegations of her two middle-aged daughters in that she had been responsible for causing them to participate in satanic rituals. She was judged not guilty of intentionally inflicting emotional distress on them.

The daughters, unhappy with the court decision, sought monetary damages from the mother in a court action brought in Orange County in June. The judge denied the damage appeal.

During the course of the original trial, the sisters were identified as being treated and counseled by Long Beach minister Timothy Maas. Maas was reported to be a defrocked Lutheran minister who operates several Christian counseling centers in the Long Beach - Orange County area. It was alleged that Maas induced the belief of satanic ritual participation during counseling sessions with the sisters.

A number of psychological therapists claim that multiple personality disorders are directly related to satanic abuse. This theory is highly controversial. There are numerous psychological experts who will testify on either side of this controversy.

Christian counselor Maas was quoted in a news article that he attended group meetings at the University of California at Irvine on this subject. According to Maas, it was during the attendance at these meetings that he became a believer. I have had similar reports of MPD diagnosed patients with alleged satanic rituals causes. Some of the therapists making this diagnosis have also been traced to the same university group.

Note: Robert Chalenor is now deceased. He dedicated decades of his life fighting cults.

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