1986-Dec.: Morningland Church Bomb Scare

HQ of controversial sect spared as bomb misfires.

LONG BEACH, Press-Telegram — An attempt to blow up the headquarters of a controversial religious sect failed yesterday when a small primary explosion alerted police. Ten industrial-type sticks of dynamite attached to three timing devices and powered by a car battery were found planted in a 6-inch crevice between the white stucco Morningland Church building and an adjacent structure, Lt. Jim Reed said.

Police were alerted to the situation at 8:20 a.m. when officers responded to a report of a small explosion, possibly the detonation of a small charge connected to the larger bomb, Reed said.

“Either it was premature, a faulty charge or there was a malfunction in the whole system,” Reed said. The small charge disturbed the timing devices, set for about 8 a.m., blowing them out onto the sidewalk.

No injuries were reported, but about 200 people in the surrounding residential neighborhood were kept out of the area while the Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad removed the explosives. The explosives were later detonated at an isolated beach site.

Police said the explosive potential of the devices could have affected two city blocks.

“This was one of the more serious explosive threats that has presented itself in this part of the country for a long time,” Reed said. “The person who did this was acting with no reserve and reckless abandon.”

Edward Masry, the sect’s attorney, said the church and an adjacent building housing a print shop had just opened for the day when a sect member heard the small explosion. He said no one had claimed responsibility for the bombing attempt.

The Morningland Church of the Ascended Christ, headquartered in Long Beach since 1973, has had a history of controversy.

In 1978, Masry and a church leader were charged with offering a bribe to former Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally. Masry was convicted, but the conviction was later overturned.

In 1978, another branch of the church, based in Escondido, closed in the midst of complaints from area residents and internal divisiveness.

More recently, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported allegations that members were arranging sham marriages for illegal immigrants and that its current leader, Sri Patricia, claimed she had faith-healing powers and could cure AIDS.

The cult was founded 50 years ago by Sri Patricia’s late husband, Daniel Mario Sperato. Sperato, who later changed his name to Donato, named nine women he called “Gopis” as church leaders. He died in 1976.

Dissenting members accused sect leaders of mind control, breaking up marriages and promoting their teachings in public schools.

2nd article

1986-Dec.: Morningland Church Bomb Scare

Man held in planting bomb at cult’s center. V.2 (Executive News Service)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Police held a man without bail in the attempted bombing of a church criticized by some former members for alleged claims to cure disease.

“We have an idea what the motive might be, but I’m not at liberty to discuss it,” said Sgt. Paul Milovich, who said up to 10 sticks of dynamite were in the device that only partially exploded.

Thomas T. McCoy, 26, was arrested and booked early Sunday after he was seen by church members sitting in a car near the Morningland Temple of Cosmology, Ontology and Metaphysics, police said.

Milovich said it had not been determined whether McCoy was ever a member of the sect, which has been criticized by former members in recent newspaper stories.

McCoy was booked for investigation of igniting a destructive device, possession of a destructive device and carrying a concealed weapon, said Lt. Rod Mickelson. The weapon was .45-caliber automatic gun, he said.

The bomb, left on a ledge separating the church from an adjacent facility, apparently failed to go off Saturday because the wiring got wet during an early morning rainstorm, said Morningland attorney Edward Masry. He said 10 people were inside the church at the time.

“The strip between the buildings was drenched by rain,” Masry said. “That probably saved a lot of lives.”

Only the device’s detonator went off, police said. The bomb was made of sticks of dynamite wired to a car battery, and Mickelson said it could have leveled the church and possibly nearby buildings if it had gone off.

Nearby residents were evacuated until a Los Angeles County sheriff’s bomb squad removed the bomb. The dynamite was taken to the beach at the foot of Cherry Avenue and detonated.

The church was established in 1973 and run by “Sri Donato,” a 52-year-old Long Beach woman whose real name is Patricia Sperato.

The church blends Christian and Eastern religious beliefs, astrology and popular culture. The Long Beach Press-Telegram was told by former Morningland members that the church is a cult which claims to cure any ailment including AIDS.

The newspaper also reported that former members have said male church members are pressured into undergoing vasectomies, heterosexuals are talked into engaging in homosexual relationships and members are asked to go to prostitutes.

“I have no knowledge of any such activities,” Masry has said. Long Beach is 20 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles.