An American Born Religion Finds a Home in Santa Fe

Guy and Edna Ballard were the founders of the “I AM” religion.

When Guy Ballard died in 1939 his wife Edna and their son, Donald, moved to Santa Fe. In 1942 they began the “I AM” Sanctuary on the Old Taos Highway in the building formerly used by the Presbyterian Mary James Missionary Boarding School for Boys. During that time, with both the Manhattan Project and the Japanese internment camp in town, their presence didn’t go unnoticed, but as always, Santa Fe’s “live and let live attitude” prevailed and allowed the group to worship in peace and privacy.

A Congregation of Believers

 Within a few years, “I AM” had 400 members in Santa Fe, among them new converts and people who followed them to live in town. Edna Ballard died in 1971, but Santa Fe’s “I AM” Sanctuary continues with a smaller congregation. There are “I AM” Temples and Sanctuaries all over the world. The Saint Germain Foundation Worldwide Headquarters is in Schaumburg, Illinois. They maintain an “I AM” Temple in downtown Chicago. Since 1950 they have held annual conclaves at their Mount Shasta location, where they sponsor the “I AM” COME! Pageant on the life of the Beloved Jesus the Christ, which is open to the public.

Freedom of Religion

In 1946, when the prisoners of the Japanese Internment camp had been freed, the First Amendment’s right to practice freedom of religion also became a part of Santa Fe history. That year, in a stunning victory, the Supreme Court rendered a 5-4 landmark decision in the United States v. Ballard, which exonerated the “I AM” faith for practicing their beliefs. Like the Japanese-American citizens who were unwillingly brought to Santa Fe in 1942, the founders of “I AM” had also moved to town that year and they too, were persecuted for being different.

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