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Spokesman Denies Infiltration Allegations

Associated Press, April 18, 1981

NEW KNOXVILLE, Ohio An FBI investigation into alleged infiltration of two defense plants by The Way International is ludicrous, says a spokesman for the religious group that reportedly has conducted weapon training classes.

There could be followers of The Way at the two Chrysler Corp. plants, "but more Roman Catholics are probably working there, and they are not being accused of infiltrating," said Lonnell Johnson, spokesman for The Way, which is based near this western Ohio town.

"Any association is purely coincidental," he said. "There is no connection any more than if a person were Roman Catholic or Baptist."

Earlier this week, the Chicago Sun-Times quoted a Chrysler official as saying the FBI has been called in to check reports that followers of The Way were working at plants in Warren, Mich., and Lima, Ohio.

"We do have a preliminary investigation under way in accordance with the existing domestic security guidelines to determine if there have been any violations of federal law," FBI spokesman Wiley Thompson said in Washington, D.C. "There have to be allegations of criminal activity present for the agency to undertake an investigation."

Thompson would not elaborate.

John Sweeney, director of the Citizens Freedom Foundation, a nationwide anti-cult network, said he was interviewed by the FBI at his California home in February. He said an unidentified agent "told me that they're very concerned -- not from the religious angle but from the security angle."

Bob Heath, a Chrysler spokesman, said the automaker had not been informed of any investigation, adding "Chrysler did not in the past, nor are we presently conducting any kind of investigation."

The Way International describes itself as a biblical research center that also conducts weapons training for "hunting and outdoor safety."

According to Johnson, the investigation is based on the assumption that the organization is trying to learn about government weapons. He blamed the media

The Associated Press, April 14, 1981

"for blowing out of proportion" a hunting course offered at The Way College in Emporia, Kan. The class was dropped, he said.

The Way is not a paramilitary organization, Johnson said.

The investigation reportedly began late last year when a civilian Army employee reported members of The Way had obtained jobs, some in sensitive positions, at the plants, which produce and test M-60 and M-1 (formerly XM-1) tanks. The M-1 tank is said to be the most sophisticated tank weapon now in production by any nation.

The Way, led by Victor Paul Weirwille, a 64-year-old former fundamentalist minister, keeps no membership records. Estimates of its membership range up to 100,000, according to Thompson.

Copyright 1996 Bergen Record Corp.,

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