Last year, Cornerstone Magazine printed a series of articles alleging that Christian comed
Last year, Cornerstone Magazine printed a series of articles
alleging that Christian comedian Mike Warnke fabricated much of
his testimony about his "Satanic" past. The articles, as well
as follow-up stories and a response from Mike Warnke, are
available for downloading from the Jesus People USA BBS (home
of Cornerstone Magazine), at: 312-878-6030. The files can also
be downloaded from many other Christian Bulletin Boards, and
are posted on Christian BBS Abba II (see "About Abba II") as
Warnke-1.zip and Warnke-2.zip.
Recently, a spokeman for Warnke Ministries stated to Anton
Hein, editor of the Christian Press Report, that three pastors
had volunteered for a "tribunal," in which they investigated
Cornerstone's claims regarding Mike Warnke.
According to the spokesman, the tribunal took place in
mid-January, and a statement by the three would be released at
the end of January. Various people who called Warnke Ministries
at the end of January and beginning of February were given to
understand that the tribunal had "cleared" Mike of all charges.
By the end of February, however, the promised statement has
still not been released, leading many people to wonder: If the
statement does indeed clear Mike Warnke of the charges brought
against him, why not make it public?
Mike Warnke did write Christianity Today, which printed his
letter in their February 8, 1993 edition:
Regarding the [Nov. 9] article in CT: I spoke with the
writer, Perucci Ferraiuolo, in September 1992, who called us
stating he was a "free-lance" writer interested in telling
"our side ofthe story." I asked him: "Is this an interview?"
His answer was no. "Are you recording this?" His answer was
no. (There are witnesses).
I have said repeatedly that when the time is right, I will
[in italics - ed] make a statement. When all the trouble
started, I did answer the charges. What I had to say was
either ignored or dismissed as "not good enough." In light
of this fact, I determined to make my next statement much
more direct and documented.
At no time did anyone at Warnke Ministries grant this
individual an interview. We had a conversation, "off the
record," and even that has been grossly misquoted and
If I have charges to make, they will not [in italics - ed]
be made in the media. I would never [in italics - ed] do to
anyone what has been done to me. I pray that the Christian
media be patient with me. I know this is a "hot topic," but
how many stories can you print without hearing my side?
Mike Warnke, Burgin, KY.
The author of the article (see "The CT Article..."), responds:
After my article was published, Sue Warnke, Mike's present
wife, phoned to say, "If we knew you were taping these
interviews [and they did], we wouldn't have talked to you."
Isn't truth truth whether or not it is recorded?
Mike Warnke said he and I had a "conversation," not an
interview. Is honesty altered depending on what form of
dialogue is used? He accuses me of "grossly misquoting"
him, yet researchers and journalists from CRI, Cornerstone
magazine, and Bookstore Journal have heard my taped
interviews, verifying the accuracy of my article.
From CHRISTIANITY TODAY, vol. 36, Nov. 9, 1992
Titl: Warnke Calls Critics Satanists
Note: Guillemets ( ) indicate italics
Since charges surfaced in July that Mike Warnke's ministry
was built largely on false claims about his past, Warnke has
repeatedly denied CHRISTIANITY TODAY an interview. But recently
Warnke talked freely with independent syndicated journalist
Perucci Ferraiuolo. That interview forms the substance of this
No sooner was the ink dry on the Cornerstone magazine
article that dealt him a heavy professional and personal blow
(CT, Aug. 17, 1992, p. 50), and on the Lexington
Herald-Leader story that augmented his financial anguish at
the hands of the IRS (CT, Oct. 26, 1992, p. 67), than Mike
Warnke began a counter-attack, saying his ministry is in
desperate financial straits.
In an exclusive interview obtained by CHRISTIANITY TODAY
shortly after the charges were levied, Warnke claimed that
those attacking him, including Cornerstone, are actually
members of a Satanist cult seeking to destroy his ministry. And
his former (third) wife and business partner, Rose Warnke,
lashed out at Word, Inc., which has published 13 audio and two
video recordings by Warnke.
"We're being attacked by Satan," said Warnke, "and I really
feel that, in order to combat what he's doing, we just can't
sit back and wait for the final blow. I'm going to fight back
on this whole thing, and when the truth comes out, heads are
going to roll."
Yet Warnke now admits that at least one claim made in the
Cornerstone article--that he did not lead a Satanist group of
1,500--is substantially true.
Warnke was charged in July by Cornerstone with fabricating
his Satanist past, including claims in his 1973 best-seller,
The Satan Seller, that during his college years he was in bad
health from drugs and alcohol, had long hair, and led a large
Satanist group. Cornerstone produced former friends of
Warnke, written records, and photos that consistently countered
Cornerstone also reported that Warnke has had several
An ensuing set of stories in the Lexington (Ky.)
Herald-Leader revealed that Warnke's tax-exempt status was
revoked by the IRS last fall, and that Warnke, Rose, her
brother Neale, and Neale's daughter were paid nearly $1 million
in yearly salaries by the ministry.
Mike Warnke, Rose, and his present (fourth) wife, Sue, said
in the recent interview that Warnke Ministries has now
positioned itself for the mother of all battles. "Our ministry
is being destroyed, and we're not going to just sit here and
take it," Rose said. "Where we usually see four or five
thousand people at our concerts, only about 90 to 100 show up
now. We're losing everything."
Gearing up or down?
During the interview, Warnke said he plans to counter "by
expanding the ministry." Said Warnke, "We're going to gear up,
not gear down."
"We're going to build a new counseling wing at the
ministry," Rose added, "and more phones to help more people 24
hours per day and go on with business as usual. I feel that's
the only way to answer what's happening now."
But Warnke did not sound like someone planning to expand a
ministry when he spoke recently to a Kalamazoo, Michigan,
audience. According to an article in the Kalamazoo Gazette,
Warnke, talking to an audience of a few hundred, stated that he
and his ministry expected to be out of business by the end of
And Warnke made a plea. According to the Gazette, Warnke
said that more than needing money for his ministry, he actually
needed money for himself and his family. He claimed that he was
Warnke blames Cornerstone and their parent ministry, Jesus
People USA, for his dwindling audiences, which Warnke
Ministries asserts once topped 13,000 in 1991 at Tacoma,
Rose Warnke alleges there is a conspiracy afoot. "These
people have our concert itinerary and are following us all over
the place. They show up with their magazine and give it out to
radio and TV before the concert, and then no one shows up.
These people hand out the Cornerstone story to everyone who
shows up for our show. Even the few that show up have a
negative attitude towards us."
Dawn Herrin, editor of Cornerstone magazine, says there is
no collusion on their part. "We don't have the money to follow
this guy all over the country," Herrin said from
Cornerstone's editorial offices in Chicago. "But we
constantly get requests for the magazine by a lot of concerned
Christians, and we do send them the copies they request."
Upset at the effect the negative claims seem to be having on
Warnke's work, Warnke Ministries has leveled its own assault
with allegations against Cornerstone and several other
nationally known Christian organizations.
Rose and Mike Warnke emphatically said in their interview
that Cornerstone magazine is part of an extremely powerful
and influential satanic cult, as are Christian Research
Institute (CRI) in Southern California and authors Bob and
Gretchen Passantino and their Costa Mesa, California-based
ministry, Answers in Action.
"These three are all in it together," stressed Rose.
Cornerstone, CRI, and the Passantinos are all part of the
same evil cult, and there's someone very powerful backing them
up. They've got a lot of money on their side and are extremely
When asked for substantive verification of these assertions,
Mike Warnke said it was forthcoming. "We've hired our own
investigators," declared the comedian. "And, we're going to
expose Cornerstone and CRI for who they really are."
"As a matter of fact," Rose told the journalist conducting
the interview, "If you write a story exposing them with the
information we already have against them, Cornerstone will
find out where you are and kill you. Are you willing to take
Cornerstone senior editor Jon Trott, who cowrote the
magazine's investigative article, laughed about the
allegations. "To say we're going to kill someone over a story
or anything else is preposterous. This is just Mike being Mike
. . . one heck-of-a storyteller."
CRI Vice-president Bob Lyle likened Warnke's allegations to
similar ones he had received from other publications, who have
falsely accused CRI of "being on the Vatican's payroll. For
Warnke to accuse us of being a satanic cult is basically the
same thing. There's a lot of satanic panic going around, and if
we don't agree with Warnke, then we're a satanic cult. The
thought is absurd."
Bob and Gretchen Passantino, long-time writers, authors, and
contributors to both Cornerstone and CRI, were startled by
the Warnkes' accusations. "It seems that if we were in this
well-financed cult we'd be reaping tons of money," said
Gretchen. The Passantinos are committed to living a simple
lifestyle. Bob Passantino echoed his wife's words, adding,
"Warnke's claims are the last gasps of a desperate man."
Rose Warnke also said that two other Christian
organizations, Word, Inc., and CCM magazine, have conspired
against the ministry by secretly agreeing not to give Mike the
publicity he warrants. Mike Warnke said that CCM,
contemporary Christian music's flagship publication, has not
done an article on him in years, and that it is the fault of
Word for not promoting him enough. Rose mirrored Mike's
sentiments. "They [Word] have never been supportive of our
ministry, and Roland Lundy [Word's president] has stabbed us in
"Word met with Mike in Estes Park when this whole
Cornerstone thing came out," she continued. "The only thing
that was decided upon was that retailers could return our
product without any penalty to them, and that was it."
Word spokesperson Kelly Tolson denied all of the remarks by
Warnke Ministries. "It seems funny that since there was this
conspiracy to keep Mike out of CCM magazine that CCM did a
cover story on him in May of 1991. Also, CCM has made
numerous attempts to do another story on him, but he won't do
"As far as the meeting in Estes Park, we outlined everything
to Mike that we wanted to do, including suspending sales and
distribution of his product until further notice. Also, Mike
knew about all of this before we ever told anyone else."
But is it all true?
Warnke repeatedly has denied interviews to many publications
concerning the claims against him. But in this recently
obtained interview, Warnke admitted that some of the charges
against him are essentially true.
Concerning the IRS revoking the ministry's tax-exempt
status, Rose Warnke complained, "We set up our ministry as a
tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, much the same as the
Smithsonian did. The IRS isn't closing them down, and we don't
understand why they're taking away our nonprofit status. We are
just like the Smithsonian."
Regarding Cornerstone's allegations, Mike and Rose Warnke
admitted that at least one claim is true. According to Rose,
there was never the 1,500-member Satanist group as Mike has
always claimed. "To be accurate," she admitted, "there were
only 13 people in the coven."
Where are these 13 Satanists now? "Eight are dead, and I
have no idea where the other five are," said Mike. Rose quickly
added that this has been a confusing point for years. "There
were 1,500 people who knew about the coven and who supported it
in one way or another, but the true coven only contained 13
Mike spoke occasionally during the interview about his
feelings. "With me, there's a real struggle between the flesh
and the spirit," he said. "And, in the flesh, it would be very
easy for me to fall into resentment, anger, and hatred. But, if
I'm the person I maintain I am, then I'm not allowed that, even
though that's what I feel. I'm hurt and annoyed.
"When all this came out, I answered all the allegations, and
no one was satisfied. Now, the next time I respond, I'm going
to level my big guns on everybody, and I'm not going to quit
shooting until I blow them all out of the water. They're going
to be very, very sorry."
Christianity Today is an orthodox, evangelical magazine,
published semi-monthly. For subscription information, call
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank