Peoples Temple - San Francisco Temple

San Francisco Temple

The move to San Francisco permitted Jones to return to urban recruitment and made better political sense because it permitted the Temple to show its true political stripes. By spring 1976, Jones openly admitted even to outsiders that he was an atheist. Despite the Temple's fear that the IRS was investigating its religious tax exemption, by 1977, Jones's wife, Marcy, openly admitted to the New York Times that Jones had not been lured to religion because of faith, but because it served his goal of social change through Marxism. She stated that, as early as age 18 when he watched his idol Mao Zedong defeat the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War, Jones realized that the way to achieve social change in the United States was to mobilize people through religion. She admitted that "Jim used religion to try to get some people out of the opiate of religion" and had slammed the Bible on the table yelling, "I've got to destroy this paper idol!"

With the move into San Francisco, the Temple more strenuously emphasized that its members live communally. It stressed physical discipline of children first, and then adults. The San Francisco Temple also carefully vetted newcomers through an extensive observation process.

The Temple distinguished itself from most cults with its overtly political message. It combined those genuine political sympathies with the perception that it could help turn out large numbers of votes to gain the support of a number of prominent politicians. Jones made it known after he moved to San Francisco that he was interested in politics, and legal changes strengthened political groups like the Temple.

After the Temple mobilized volunteers and voters instrumental in George Moscone's narrow election victory in 1975, Moscone appointed Jones as Chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission. Jones and the Temple received the support of, among others, Governor Jerry Brown, Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, Assemblyman Willie Brown, San Francisco mayor George Moscone, Art Agnos, and Harvey Milk. Willie Brown visited the Temple many times and spoke publicly in support of Jones, even after investigations and suspicions of cult activity.

After his rise in San Francisco political circles, Jones and Moscone met privately with Vice Presidential Candidate Walter Mondale in San Francisco days before the 1976 Presidential election. Jones also met First Lady Rosalynn Carter on multiple occasions, including a private dinner, and corresponded with Mrs. Carter.

Jones used his position at the Housing Authority to lead the fight for a period against the eviction of tenants from San Francisco's famous I-Hotel. The Temple further forged an alliance with San Francisco Sun Reporter publisher Carlton Goodlett and received frequent favorable mentions in that paper. It also received frequent favorable mentions from famed San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen and other local newspaper and television reporters.

The Temple aroused police suspicion after Jones praised the radical Bay Area group the Symbionese Liberation Army and its leaders attended San Francisco Temple meetings. Further suspicions were raised after the defection of Joyce Shaw and the death soon after of her husband, Bob Houston. After tension rose between the Temple and the Nation of Islam in San Francisco, the group held a large "spiritual" jubilee in the Los Angeles convention center attended by thousands, including prominent political figures, to heal the rift.

While the Temple forged media alliances, the move to San Francisco also opened the group to San Francisco media scrutiny. After Jones and hundreds of Temple members fled to Guyana following media investigations, Mayor Moscone issued a press release stating the Mayor's office would not investigate the Temple. During this time, Harvey Milk spoke at Peoples Temple political rallies and wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter after the investigations began, praising Jones and stating that the leader of those attempting to extricate relatives from Jonestown was telling "bold-faced lies".

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