At first glance, the invitation many clergy and community leaders around the country received last April to attend conferences on "Faith-Based Initiatives For Family and Community Renewal" might have looked like it came from the Republican congressional leadership and the Bush administration.
The material, decorated with a drawing of the U.S. Capitol, noted that the events would include a satellite broadcast of a GOP-sponsored "faith-based summit" for clergy transmitted live from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and said that prominent congressional leaders and White House staffers would take part.
The flyer promised that the "cutting edge program" would "provide the latest information on innovative policies and programs from the Executive and Congressional leadership in Washington; and build alliances for faith-based services at the state and community level."
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, the House Republican Conference Chairman, was issuing press releases noting that the GOP's "faith-based" summit would be viewed by satellite at events in over 45 cities.
But if invitees took the time to read the fine print on the flyers touting the local gatherings, they would have learned that the get-togethers were sponsored not directly by the Republican Party but on its behalf by a group called the American Leadership Conference (ALC).
Reading further, they would have found out that the ALC is a project of the American Family Coalition and The Washington Times Foundation both front organizations for the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a controversial Korean evangelist and founder of the Unification Church. The "faith-based summit" itself was sponsored by Watts (R-Okla.), Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and other top congressional Republicans, but efforts to promote it at the grassroots level were turned over to a Moon organization.
Why is the Republican Party working hand in glove with Moon front groups? The partnership stems largely from Moon's phenomenal ability to make inroads in GOP and Religious Right circles. Despite his unorthodox theological views Moon teaches that he is the new Messiah, sent by God to complete the failed mission of Jesus Moon has had little difficulty penetrating the upper echelons of American conservatism.
While a number of Republican-aligned private organizations have promoted President George W. Bush's religion funding scheme, only Moon won an official relationship with the Republican leadership to rally grassroots forces on behalf of the "faith-based" summit. This enhanced status enabled him to do grassroots political organizing and religious recruitment with the apparent blessing of Bush and his GOP allies in Congress.
Just a few years ago, Moon announced he was ready to give up on the United States, but the change of administrations in Washington seems to have sparked a change of heart in him. Frederick Clarkson, a journalist who has studied Moon and other far-right movements, notes that Moon specializes in the creation of "Astroturf organizations" groups that appear to have grassroots power but that in reality speak mostly for Moon. Moon has used these groups to curry favor with Republicans for more than 30 years, Clarkson said, and is revving them up again to help the new Bush administration.
"Whenever the conservatives identify an issue as important to their agenda, Moon creates an Astroturf organization to create the appearance of grassroots support for these initiatives," Clarkson said.
Moon also has great influence among Capitol Hill Republicans through his ownership of the ultra-conservative Washington Times newspaper. Although the paper has never turned a profit, Moon has subsidized its operations since he founded the publication in 1982. Gradually, it has become an important outlet for conservatives eager for a vehicle to spread their views. Through the related Washington Times Foundation, Moon holds opulent seminars, dinners and other events that attract the top names in the Religious Right, clergy and political leaders.
Over the years, Moon has played host to Religious Right bigwigs like Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed, Gary Bauer and Beverly LaHaye. He has also paid high fees to ex-presidents Gerald Ford and George Bush to speak at Moon events.
To preview the Watts "faith-based" summit, Moon did a whirlwind tour of all 50 states in March and April, called the "We Will Stand Tour," to discuss family issues and plug the Bush proposal.
Although the speeches were billed as "a celebration of faith and family," Moon, 81, was frequently off message. In Las Vegas, for example, the more than 600 people who gathered at a church April 11 to hear the Korean evangelist may have gotten a little more than they bargained for. Moon's discussion of "faith" turned out to be a claim that he is the rebirth of Jesus Christ backed by assertions that only people who have received his blessing can enter Heaven.
From there things took an even more bizarre turn. Moon went off on an explicit tangent about "love organs," comparing male genitalia to rattlesnakes and telling the crowd, "If you misuse your love organ, you destroy your life, your nation, your world." He added that most divorces can be blamed on women who don't understand that their love organs belong to their husbands, not themselves.
All of this did not sit too well with some members of the audience. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that several people walked out, including one woman who screamed, "Liar!" at Moon as she left.
Moon crisscrossed the country under the auspices of his American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), which has made a special effort to reach out to African-American clergy. (This was not the first time Moon has tried to enlist black religious leaders. Last year's "Million Family March" in Washington was sponsored in part by an unusual alliance of Moon front groups and the Nation of Islam.)
A Moon speech in Washington last month drew dozens of African-American pastors, among them the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, D.C.'s former non-voting delegate to Congress, and the Rev. Donald Robinson, Mayor Anthony Williams' special assistant for religious affairs.
"Many of the goals of the 'We Will Stand' tour are consistent with the goals the mayor espouses for the city," Robinson told The Washington Post. "I don't see a conflict. I just see this as an opportunity for the city to align itself with like-minded people. We want the renewal and restoration of families, the renewal and revival of community. We want a sense of racial harmony."
As he traveled around the United States, Moon was often introduced by Bishop George Augustus Stallings Jr., a black former Catholic priest who left the church and founded a splinter denomination called Imani Temple in 1989. In Minneapolis Stallings told the crowd, "I know there are people saying, 'Why in the world are you having that man [Moon] in your church?' Before tonight is over, you will know that God has put a prophet in our midst!"
But other black clergy took a different view. The Rev. A. Michael Black of Washington's Bethesda Baptist Church was invited to attend the April 16 event in the nation's capital but refused. Black told The Post that orthodox Christians cannot accept Moon's theology.
"How can pastors accept Rev. Moon as the messiah one day after they preach Jesus being raised from the dead on Easter?" he asked.
Other critics note that Moon's message, while ostensibly about "unity," in fact excludes many people. During his remarks in Washington, Moon attacked gay men, lesbians and "those who go after free sex," labeling them "less than animals."
Moon also blasted married couples who don't have children. According to Moon, failure to reproduce can have dire consequences. "I encourage all of you, please have more children," he said. "That is the contribution and service you can do the world and God. If you stay away from having children, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. You are bound to go to somewhere else you can call it Hell."
The Korean evangelist offered up similar comments in other cities during his nationwide tour, in each case reading from a prepared text through an interpreter. In Winston-Salem, N.C., he admonished women to have lots of children, saying, "Why do you think God gave you such broad, cushion-like hips for your own sake, to sit any place comfortably? No, for your children."
In spite of these views, Moon operatives managed to win endorsements from some local clergy in each city, although the going was not always smooth.
Days before the event in Milwaukee, the Rev. Joseph Dallas of New Creation Bible Church in Milwaukee told the Milwaukee Sentinel, "Some people in the Baptist organization are quite appalled by a Baptist church [hosting Moon]. We are going to have an informational protest. We're going to be passing out information about the Unification Church to expose their lies. We believe Moon has a hidden agenda to deceive the churches."
To mollify critics, Moon lieutenants even backed off the claim that their boss is the Messiah. In several cities, the Rev. Michael Jenkins, a church official, told reporters that "messiah" simply means "anointed one." Thus, Jenkins asserted, Moon believes he is a messiah, not necessarily the messiah. "He believes he is anointed by Jesus, not that he is The Christ or the Savior," Jenkins told the Billings (Mont.) Gazette. "Rev. Moon believes pastors are messiahs. We believe Jesus is working through him."
But scholars who study Moon tell a different story. Dr. Massimo Introvigne, director of the Center for the Studies of New Religions in Torino, Italy, who has tracked Moon's activities globally, told Church & State, "There is no doubt that Moon and his followers believe that he IS the Lord of the Second Advent, i.e. a Messianic figure complementary to Jesus Christ."
Moon has made numerous statements over the years implying that he is something more than a mere mortal. A passage on Moon's official website (www.unification.net) states the matter plainly: "The Christian world must confront the fact that the Messiah's second advent took place at the end of World War II, in an obscure setting," it reads. "As did Jesus, he met with countless difficulties, including accusation and rejection. Bearing every cross, he the Reverend Sun Myung Moon took responsibility for the failure of this generation of Christians, and he stands today as the historical victor with a worldwide following."
In a speech delivered on January 10, 1993, Moon outlined his emergence as the Messiah. During the speech, titled "Proclamation of the Messiah," Moon compares himself to Jesus and asserts that he was persecuted in a manner similar to Christ's crucifixion.
Moon is apparently aware that his claim to be the Messiah could harm his inter-faith efforts. Introvigne noted that a few years ago, Moon announced the dissolution of the Unification Church and now runs many of his religious activities through the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. The move has actually helped expand Moon's circle of influence, since members of other faiths can now endorse his endeavors and claim they are working with a "pro-family" organization, not the Unification Church.
"[The Family Federation] is not a church but a coalition of people sharing certain spiritual and moral values and certainly a sympathy for Moon," said Introvigne. "It would have been inconceivable to be a member of the Unification Church without believing that Moon is a Messianic figure, whereby it is possible to be a member of the current Federation and at the same time regard Moon as an inspired religious leader but not the Messiah. It is, however, also the case that the top leadership of the Federation comes from the Unification Church and fully accepts Moon's role as Messianic."
Those who study Moon note that he refers to himself as the "physical third Adam" and that Unification theology breaks sharply with orthodox Christianity by teaching that Jesus Christ failed in his efforts to redeem humanity. The Unification website states that Jesus was never meant to die on the cross. Because Jesus's death was an error, Moon believes he must pick up where Christ left off. His book The Divine Principle, the heart of Unification theology, stresses that people can receive "spiritual salvation" through Christ but only Moon can give believers "physical salvation" a key component to getting into Heaven.
In another sharp break with orthodox Christianity, Unification theology holds that Moon and his wife, known as the "True Parents" in Unification parlance, and their children were born without Original Sin.
None of these theological views have stopped Moon from making great headway in conservative politics and even the Religious Right, a movement whose fundamentalist Christian viewpoint would seem to be greatly at odds with Moon.
One key to Moon's success is a longtime political operative named David Caprara. Caprara, a Unification Church member and former assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Jack Kemp, is well connected in the nation's capital and serves Moon in various overlapping capacities.
Caprara serves as president of the American Family Coalition, a Moon front group, as well as representing The Washington Times Foundation. He recently accepted an appointment to serve on an advisory council that Watts put together in advance of the GOP "faith-based" summit. The Washington Times Foundation then arranged to broadcast the event live via satellite to dozens of communities.
Caprara also runs The Empowerment Network, a public policy organization that promotes "faith-based" and family solutions to societal problems. Two U.S. senators, Santorum and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), serve as caucus chairmen of the organization. Its "Empowerment Leadership Roundtable" lists two men who have gone to work in Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Stanley Carlson-Thies and Don Eberly.
Through operatives like Caprara, Moon keeps a steady hand in Washington and thus in national affairs. Moon is able to open other doors through infusions of cold, hard cash when necessary. For example, many of the ministers who attended the "We Will Stand" events were given gold Christian Bernard wristwatches estimated to cost thousands of dollars apiece.
The Rev. Phillip Schanker, a Moon spokesman, told The Washington Post, "The gold watches are a personal expression from Rev. Moon, and the gold represents his unchanging love."
Moon also pays speakers handsomely. After former President George Bush spoke at a Moon event in July of 1996, a London newspaper reported that he received $1 million in British pounds (nearly $1.5 million in U.S. dollars) for the speech. Kemp, who spoke at a series of Moon events between January of 1995 and the summer of 1996, walked away with a total of $68,000.
Other prominent politicians and national figures who have addressed Moon gatherings include former Vice President Dan Quayle and his wife, Marilyn, Sens. Jesse Helms and Orrin Hatch, ex-United Nations Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, former Education Secretary William Bennett, former Defense Secretary Alexander Haig and the late Robert Casey, former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania.
Moon has also lured prominent Religious Right leaders to his events. A conference held in Washington in July of 1996 sponsored by the Family Federation for World Peace, a Moon front organization, heard remarks by Ralph Reed, then executive director of the Christian Coalition, Gary Bauer, then head of the Family Research Council, and Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye.
Moon also has ties to TV preachers Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Falwell has accepted money to speak at several Moon events, including a July 26, 1994, meeting of the Youth Federation for World Peace, yet another Moon front group. After that gathering, a photo of Falwell standing alongside Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han, appeared in the Unification News. About a year a half later, Falwell participated in a Moon-sponsored "Christian Unity in the Americas" conference in Uruguay.
In 1997, Moon money bailed Falwell out of a tight financial spot. A Moon-run group, the Women's Federation for World Peace, gave $3.5 million to the Christian Heritage Foundation with instructions to use it to buy some of the debt incurred by Falwell's Liberty University, reported The Washington Post. (The group later forgave the debt.) The paper also reported that a Moon publishing outfit had lent Falwell $400,000 at a low interest rate in 1996 for use in propping up Liberty.
In February of 2000, the Washington Times Foundation held an event on Capitol Hill honoring Moon that included an awards ceremony. Falwell was a top awardee, receiving a "Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Freedom, Faith and Family." (Several members of Congress, including Speaker Dennis Hastert also attended the event, which took place at the Canon Office Building.)
Moon's relationship with Robertson is more complex. The volatile Virginia televangelist has launched many verbal broadsides against Moon over the years and has apparently had no direct dealings with him. However, Robertson's longtime political associate, Billy McCormack, is close to Moon.
McCormack, a Louisiana preacher who Robertson says first gave him the idea to form the Christian Coalition, has served on the Coalition's board of directors for many years. Recently, he has begun popping up at Moon events in his official Coalition capacity. McCormack was originally scheduled to appear at an ACLC "unity rally" held at the Supreme Court last Dec. 1, but dropped out due to a family illness. (Another Christian Coalition representative, Daniel Perkins, spoke instead.)
But McCormack did show up in person in January for a Moon-sponsored luncheon during the Bush inaugural, where he joined 1,700 other religious leaders for an event called "America Come Together." McCormack and Falwell both spoke at the luncheon, and McCormack later joined Moon on stage in Little Rock during Moon's multi-state tour; he also served on the "Invitation Committee" that coordinated the "We Will Stand" events. (McCormack did not respond to Church & State's request for an interview.)
Joining McCormack on the Moon committee was the Rev. Wiley Drake of Buena Park, Calif. Drake, a Southern Baptist minister, has frequently attacked church-state separation and Americans United. (He once announced that he would use imprecatory prayers prayers designed to bring down the wrath of God against AU and its staff.) In mid April, Drake issued a public apology for his involvement with the United Federation of Churches, another Moon group, but as of May was still listed on a Moon website promoting the We Will Stand events (www.wewillstand.org).
Where does Moon get the money he uses to buy influence among the Religious Right? That question remains open. Journalist Clarkson, author of the 1997 book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy And Democracy, noted that possible sources for Moon's millions include foreign government and intelligence agencies and Moon-controlled businesses around the world.
Moon served time in prison in the mid 1980s for tax evasion, and investigations undertaken during the trial indicated that much of his money comes from Japan. Research conducted since then has not shed much more light on the subject. As Clarkson noted "where [Moon's fortune] originates exactly remains a matter of considerable conjecture." One source may be the door-to-door sale of overpriced religious artifacts to mostly older residents in large Japanese cities. Former church members in Japan have claimed that they were forced to engage in high-pressure sales of assorted religious goods at inflated prices.
Moon could be pulling in money from his far-flung business holdings as well. Over the years, his investments have included Kahr Arms, a manufacturer of handguns, and firms that sell ginseng, computers and seafood. He also has owned a hotel and a bank in Uruguay, where he maintains a large estate.
Observers who monitor Moon's activities say his new venture into the GOP may represent the Korean evangelist's rekindling of interest in America. As recently as 1998, Moon seemed to have given up hope on the United States and was focusing increasing attention on South America.
Three years ago, Moon began construction of a compound he called the New Hope Ranch in remote southwestern Brazil. Moon groups spent $25 million purchasing more than 200,000 acres of farmland in the area. According to a report in the St. Petersburg Times, Moon promised to build a new city in the area, complete with hotels and an airport.
At the time, Moon had become increasingly critical of the United States, apparently bitter over the fact that his church never really caught on in America. "America is the kingdom of extreme individualism, the kingdom of free sex," he said during a May 1, 1998, speech in New York. "The country that represents Satan's harvest is America. America doesn't have anywhere to go now."
But Moon's hopes for a new start in South America may have been dashed when New Hope Ranch got off to a rocky beginning. Moon had hoped to make the facility self sufficient, but the huge greenhouses he had built failed to produce many crops. Cattle brought in to establish a breeding population had to be slaughtered to feed residents. Moon had also hoped to draw students from all over the world to the compound, but so far the numbers have been less than encouraging.
With his South American ventures floundering, Moon may believe that it's time to take another shot at America especially since a Religious Right ally now occupies the White House.
"It's clearly a friendlier environment for the Moon organization," says Clarkson. "Going back as far as the Nixon years, you can see the Moon organization functioning as an early Religious Right group, kind of like an early Christian Coalition."
Both Introvigne and Clarkson agree that Moon never really intended to give up on the United States. Introvigne notes that Moon considers the country crucial "for both theological and geopolitical reasons." Clarkson asserts that Moon has "always hated America" but regards it as "a necessary base of operations."
What does Moon want? For the short term, Moon may simply want to ingratiate himself with the new political leadership in Washington. By promoting the "faith-based initiative," Moon could win another lucrative benefit: Moon front groups frequently sponsor "abstinence education" programs for teenagers. If Bush is able to secure congressional approval for "faith-based" programs, these and other Moon projects could qualify for tax assistance.
Moon-watchers note that the Korean evangelist has won special favors from the U.S. government before. In 1994, Congress passed a measure creating a new national holiday called "Parents Day," which falls on the fourth Sunday in July. Moon ally Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) spearheaded the drive, insisting the day was only intended to honor hard-working parents.
Critics noted, however, that Moon and his wife call themselves the "True Parents" of mankind and that a longtime Moon operative in Washington, Gary Jarmin, did much of the legwork for Burton to get "Parents Day" enacted into law.
Moon's long-range goal is more ambitious and more nefarious. Unification theology holds that all religions should merge under a theocratic state headed by Moon himself. Even Moon's critics assert that's not a likely prospect at his advanced age, but he may hope to pass the mantle to his youngest son, Hyun Jin Nim. (Moon's oldest son, Hyo Jin, was apparently deemed unfit to take over after his ex-wife published a book accusing him of being a cocaine addict, an alcoholic and a frequenter of prostitutes. Moon's second-eldest son, Phillip Youngjin, committed suicide in 1999.)
Although Moon himself may not live to see the fruition of all of his goals, observers who track his movement agree that the religio-political powerhouse he has built is not likely to collapse any time soon. Moon's ties to the Republican Party and the Religious Right as well as his outreach to black clergy could mean that his influence will carry beyond the grave.
Introvigne and Clarkson both believe that Moon's wife (his third), who is a good deal younger than Moon, will pick up the reins of leadership once he dies and may continue grooming Hyun Jin for eventual coronation. In either case, Moon's death, they say, isn't likely to dampen the far-right activism of the Moon political machine.
"Once he dies, there will probably be enormous political infighting inside the Moon organization," Clarkson said. "But the people who run it have tried to arrange a family succession centered around a compromise candidate: Mrs. Moon. Mrs. Moon, the 'true co-parent,' will be either the titular or actual head of the Moon operation for the foreseeable future."