Ernest Angley says the people who spend long hours toiling at his church, his restaurant and his television station are doing the work of the Lord.
Some people who have done that work say it more closely resembles slave labor.
Shane McCabe, 34, who left Grace Cathedral in 2010 after 21 years as a devout member, said he learned early on that the church had no intention of following the rules of the employment road.
“The first day I worked at the station [WBNX], they told me to make sure you clock out on time,” he said. “They said if you don’t clock out on time you can get into serious trouble. ...
“I was required to work about 50 hours a week, but my card said I was doing 40.”
Greg Mulkey, 41, was a prominent member of the church two decades ago. After singing with the Akron Symphony and attending the University of Akron on an opera scholarship, he was invited by Angley to star in the Hallelujahs, a group featured on Angley’s TV broadcasts, as well as sing in the choir and give voice lessons to his choir colleagues.
In addition to the music, he eventually worked as a banquet manager in Angley’s restaurant and at the TV station — the equivalent of three full-time jobs, he says.
“I probably worked 16 hours a day Monday through Sunday. There wasn’t really a day off.”
For that he was paid minimum wage — without overtime.
“Pay checks alternated each week, one pay from the buffet — 40 hours at $4.25 per hour — then the next week one pay from the church — 40 hours at $4.25 per hour. I was never issued any pay for any work done at WBNX.”
Mulkey said he would never have put up with the situation had he not been caught in the psychological clutches of Ernest Angley.
“I was still mentally and intellectually a child at 21, because of growing up there with a warped sense of reality. They were able to take advantage of me that way.”
A window into Angley’s labor practices opened in early 1999 after a volunteer worker at the Cathedral Buffet was stabbed to death by another volunteer worker.
Because the use of volunteers at a for-profit restaurant is prohibited, the U.S. Labor Department investigated. The church agreed that spring to stop the practice.
But the practice has resumed.
Angelia Oborne, 35, has deep, firsthand knowledge of the finances at the buffet, where she was employed for 20 years. She started by busing tables at the restaurant and worked her way up to management.
“Before we were audited,” she said, “I was instructed to destroy all the timecards and payroll reports for ... other years before that.”
Oborne also echoed what others have said about time-clock fudging.
“They told every person [at WBNX] that they were required to clock out at 5 p.m. whether their work was done or not. And if their work was not done, they were to go back to their desk.”
She said she wasn’t the only one who was told what to do before the audit.
“We were actually coached to answer questions in a way that wasn’t [technically] lying. I mean, there was an actual meeting to coach us.”
After the audit, Angley began to comply with the wage-and-hour laws, Oborne said. But that didn’t last.
“Right before I left [about a year and a half ago], Ernest Angley decided it was OK for him to start using volunteers again at the buffet. So there are people working there that are not getting paid again — same as it was before we were audited by Wage and Hourly.”
When asked about that allegation, Angley responded:
“Yes, we have used some, because even the lady that came out for the [Labor Department], she said, ‘I don’t know why they’re doing this to you, because downtown ... they have things and they don’t pay for everything.’ But she said she had to do it.
“And we couldn’t help that. The girl was killed, that was an awful thing. I had a time getting over that. She was a precious girl.”
(The victim, 15-year-old Cassandra Blondheim, was killed by Shane Partin, then 27, who remains behind bars. He was obsessed with her and wanted to date her, but she didn’t want anything to do with him.)
Reporter: “So, at this point, you are using volunteers at the Cathedral Buffet?”
“Yeah, there’s some,” Angley responded. “It’s good. People like to work for the Lord. See, we make nothing off it, only for missions.”
Angley also has raised hackles by pouring resources into a Bible college that failed.
A longtime churchgoer who quit a few months ago said he is “furious” about Angley constructing a dormitory for a Bible college on the site of his original church, on Canton Road in Springfield Township. (The old chapel is now used mainly for Saturday youth services, funerals and weddings.)
The man, who doesn’t want to be identified because many family members still attend the church, said he donated his time and money for 20 years to help build the dorm, which supposedly would house foreign youth who would hop on Angley’s 747 during mission trips and return to the U.S. to train as missionaries.
“They built this dormitory, probably spent $2 million on it — all donations from the people — and it just sits there, dormant,” the man said. “The Bible college is nonexistent.
“The whole congregation accepts that now God is telling him it’s not supposed to be. But that’s bogus.”
During an interview in his office, Angley admitted the Bible college was a miscalculation. He said he didn’t anticipate the red tape involved.
“We found out when we went into it that it was such a slow thing that it wasn’t going to pay,” he said. To compensate, he said, he created an online Bible college that “is in many nations now.”
Angley also said the dorm is being used to host people who attend camp meetings.
None of this may matter, however, if you buy into Angley’s view of the near future.
When asked what will happen to his church after he dies, he said, “Well, that’s in the hands of the Lord. I’m planning on the Rapture.
“All the end-times signs are pointing that this is the time. It’s in the Bible. ... So many of the signs are being fulfilled. And I don’t feel like we have long to work.”
How far off do you think it is?
“I’m not one to set dates, but I just know the Lord said we’d know the season, and this is the season. He said, ‘When you see these things, I’ll be at the door.’ And when someone’s at your door, it doesn’t take long for ’em to step over the threshold.
“Armageddon’s on the way.”
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31.