To Bigotry, No Sanction, Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church

by Dr. Mose Durst

7. The Church Under Siege: The Anti-Religious Movement

The activities of the Unification movement have made their impact on almost every area of culture: science, philosophy, religion, media, medicine, social service, etc. As a result of this and of the rapid growth of the movement, there has been an incredible reaction by the larger culture. Where people have not understood what Unificationists were doing, they often assumed the worst. Where Unification activities challenged the status quo, or exacerbated an existing situation, public reaction was often violent. As with the growth of other religious movements in the United States, the new was seen to be strange and threatening.

In 1919 Helen Jackson of Toledo, Ohio, produced a book entitled Convent Cruelties or My Life in a Convent, a classic of anti-cult literature. The sub-title of the book, which went through seven editions by 1924, is "a providential delivery from Rome's convent slave years-a sensational experience." 1 The cult under attack is the Roman Catholic Church. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, long before anyone ever heard of a Moonie or Krishna, there was a concerted "anti-cult" movement by Protestants and secularists against Catholics. Honestly, if you substitute the word "Moonie" for "Catholic" in this book and others like it, it could be pushed today as part of the anti-cult crusade.

Actually, whenever a religious movement appears to be vital, there usually follows an anti-religious reaction that seeks to denigrate and dehumanize it. Roman writers, for example, made comments like the following about the early Christians:

"There is a group, hated for their abominations, called Christians. . . ." (Tacitus)
"The Christians are a class of men given to a new and wicked superstition." (Suetonius)
"They are like frogs holding a symposium around a swamp. . . ." (Celsius)

Bamber Gascoigne, in his history entitled The Christians, writes of how:

... the early Christians met in secret for their communal meal, and soon it gave rise to all sorts of rumors. They called it an agape, or love feast, from a Greek word meaning brotherly love. Love feast! There was talk in no time of sexual orgies in dark and secret places. And word also got around of the Christians eating the flesh and blood of some leader of theirs. Cannibalism now! 2

History repeats itself. In Boston in 1834, an angry mob of some thousand men burned an Ursuline Catholic nunnery. It was the result of anti-Catholic feeling running high in America at that time. In 1844 the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, lost his life at the hands of a mob in Carthage, Illinois. In 1981 a Unification Church building in upstate New York was burned to the ground after a burning cross was placed on the front lawn.

There is an increasing network of people involved in a campaign to restrict religious liberty, and they have special designs to stamp out new religious faiths that surface in America. This anti-religious movement is composed basically of five major groups: parents of members of new faiths; Christian heresy hunters; Jewish anti-conversionists; mental health experts who abridge religious freedom; and sensationalist media.

Parents of Members

Throughout history, parents have been shocked when their son or daughter chose a way of life different from their own. Published in 1837 was a book entitled The Experience of Several Eminent Methodist Preachers; With an Account of Their Call to and Success in the Ministry. 3 The following is an account of the consternation of one preacher's family after their son became involved with the Methodists.

In the latter end of June I went to Otley to hear a Methodist preach, when I was more surprised than ever. The serious, devout behavior of the people struck me with a kind of religious awe. The singing greatly delighted me, and the sermon was much blessed to my soul. They suffered me to stay in the society meeting, for which I had great cause to bless God. I returned home full of good resolutions; but little thought I of what trials were coming upon me. I thought certainly none who love me can be offended at my seeking salvation of my soul; but I soon found my mistake. For those who had formerly been my greatest friends now became my open enemies. All my relations were exceedingly offended, and threatened me much if I would not leave this way. My uncle, in particular, who before promised to be kind to me, now resolved to leave me nothing, which resolution he made good. My father and mother were exceedingly troubled, supposing me to be totally ruined; and my brothers and sisters were of the same mind. My father threatened many times to turn me out of doors, and entirely disown me; but the love he had for me (I being his eldest son) moved him to use every means he could think of to prevail on me to forsake this despised people, whom he hated above all others. He mourned to see me 'run willfully to my own ruin.' My mother also frequently wept much on my account. 4

How remarkably similar is the response of some families today when religion affects one of its members.

Today, if a parent is unhappy about his grown child's involvement in a religious movement, he can vent his anger by using a most potent weapon: the media. From The New York Times to the National Enquirer, the media has been only too happy to be the willing listeners to emotionally distressed parents. Fear and emotion are then reported as fact stranger than fiction: "How Family Smashed a Cult's Shackles and Saved a Child."

A few parents have conjured up bizarre images of religious "cults" and then declared war on them. Although the word "cult" is originally a neutral word signifying a small group, it has taken on irrational and monstrous connotations. Thus anyone belonging to such a group is automatically defined as a hideous monster who, once labeled, need no longer be dealt with as a human being.

In every experience I have had with families hostile to our church, I could perceive that serious problems plagued that family long before anyone ever became involved in our church. Families in America have been crumbling during the last fifty years. Hundreds of books have been written offering numerous explanations for this. When Reverend Moon entered the American scene in 1972 and spoke of the God-centered, nuclear family as the hope of a peaceful, ethical world, he attracted numerous followers. Ironically, he was then accused of breaking up families.

The fact is that only a small number of families have been hostile to us, but they have employed the mass media in a spectacular way. (The media, of course, is unexcited by the overwhelming number of families who are positive about or supportive of our church.) Two years ago, for example, a young lady in her late twenties joined the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles in California. She had been traveling in Europe for several years prior to joining CARP and had not been back to see her family in New Zealand all during that time.

Shortly after she joined CARP, her parents in New Zealand were informed by a "friend" that she had been "captured" by the Moonies. Her mother and sister quickly flew to California and contacted the local Unification Church center and demanded that they turn over their daughter. When she visited with her family, she was told that she had lost her mind and should immediately go with them to see a special counselor working with deprogrammers. She expressed concern for her family's distress and offered to go with them to see the priest at the Berkeley Newman Center. They would have none of it,

She then left for a CARP activity in New York. Her mother and sister, meanwhile, held press conferences and went to every newspaper, television, and radio station in the San Francisco Bay area. Their relative, they said, was being held in San Francisco against her will by the Unification Church, a story dutifully reported by the media just as it was told to them. Since the sister was a reporter herself, her family gained extra sympathy from the news media.

In response to the media blitz in San Francisco, the young woman held a press conference in New York and explained what nonsense was going on. Since San Francisco does not quite recognize or acknowledge New York culture, the horror stories in the Bay area continued. The family escalated their activities. They went to court and persuaded a judge that he should begin contempt proceedings against me, the president of the Unification Church, for holding the woman against her will. (I knew nothing of the situation, as I happened to be in Korea at the time.) The beginning of contempt proceedings means virtually nothing unless one can prove there is a crime, which of course there was not in this case.

Enter the international media. "President of Unification Church of America held in contempt over kidnapping girl." When I returned to the United States my friends asked when I was going to jail. Several professor friends of mine had read the story in the International Herald Tribune in Cairo, Egypt. When we met upon their return to the United States, they wanted to know when I had gotten out of jail! Of course nothing happened except in the media.

A handful of hostile parents have caused literally thousands of negative articles to be written, all of which have almost no substance if read objectively. One wealthy woman in Marin County, California, prides herself on being the source of more bad press against the church than anyone else. Like the true religious zealot, she has staked out a war-room in her home, as she explained to the San Francisco Chronicle, in which she devotes a great deal of her time, influence, and money to discrediting the Unification Church. She is only too happy to give interviews to people who are hostile to us. She never mentions the drugs, alcohol abuse, or sexual promiscuity that filled her son's life before he became a member of the church. Rather, she talks about how frightened she became when he started praying in the morning, when he got a job, and when he started acting like a responsible citizen.

The fact is that the majority of relatives of current members of our church are at the very least accepting, and often supportive, of the Unification Church. This has become more and more the case as members have married and now begun parenting their own families.

Christian Heresy Hunters

Christian heresy hunting must be viewed within the larger context of the American religious community. It is not uncommon, and in fact considered perfectly natural, for the clergy of one faith to feel threatened by a member of their congregation becoming an adherent of another faith. It is frequent for there to be fierce competition, and sometimes even back-biting, among well established Christian denominations. Newer religions are merely easier targets for attack, since they have not yet gained the legitimacy of the more established groups.

Some ministers and their church members have "rescued" their children from the Unification Church and other new religions, either by force or by trying to discredit the new religions. Other ministers have formed groups to "Inform the public and battle the menace of the cults." Needless to say, the information is less than unbiased. Several ministers appear to be on individual crusades against the new religions. Anti-cult educational programs are offered at Christian churches nationwide with a traveling band of "experts" who are always ready to whip up a little hysteria.

A few Catholic priests have also been involved in campaigns against the new religions. One prominent priest in New York City has said, "The only clean break [with the cult] ... is deprogramming." My only personal experience with this priest was when I was invited to appear with him on a New York City television show. When I arrived at the studio, I learned that he would appear on the same show, but not at the same time. I was to wait in the green room and could watch him on TV, then go on the set for my own appearance. The good father insisted that I remain in a different room until he left the building. His remarks, needless to say, were filled with misunderstanding, ignorance and hostility toward the Unification Church. At least I could appear on the show; I don't usually get such opportunities to respond.

The central argument against us is that we attract people in their twenties who are at a vulnerable point in their lives, and that they can therefore be unfairly influenced by us. The reality is that most people are born into their religious faith, are educated or indoctrinated from the earliest age, and never consciously choose one religion over another. My rabbi, when I was thirteen years old, did not offer me a clear choice between Baptist theology, Islamic theology, or Jewish theology. It was assumed that I would be faithful to Jewish theology or I would go to hell. Only in relationship to choosing a different religion must one make a painful, thoughtful, and difficult choice. Young people are usually more courageous and flexible about religious conversion than older people. Habit makes cowards of us all.

Jewish Anti-Conversionists

It is truly unfortunate that some of the bitterest enemies of the Unification Church are members of the Jewish faith. In a statement about the Unification movement published in January 1976, Reverend Moon said: "We consider ourselves to be the younger brother to our Jewish and Christian brethren, all of whom are children of our Heavenly Father. We regard it as our duty to respect and serve Judaism and Christianity by promoting love and unity among all the children of God." Such words of friendship followed three years of Jewish opposition, which still continues.

These opponents form basically three groups: already established Jewish groups, which attack new religions as part of their defense of Judaism; new groups founded by 'anti-cult' rabbis; and lone Jewish crusaders.

B'nai B'rith, "the oldest and largest Jewish service organization in the world," is strongly opposed to the new religions. One of its documents seeks to institute "a national program designed to educate adults and youth as to the menace the cults present, and to speak out wherever and whenever necessary until the threat of these cults is eliminated." B'nai B'rith has supported a bill in Maryland to investigate "cult phenomenon" and wrote letters to former Gov. Hugh Carey of New York in 1980 endorsing the signing of the Lasher Conservatorship Bill, which would have empowered the government to certify members of new religions as "mentally incompetent," and allow parents to take custody of them. Imagine the outcry if such a bill were sponsored against the Jews.

The National Council of Young Israel has also come out strongly against new religions, particularly the Unification Church. They have issued a proclamation: "This is a warning to parents and children. The cults-Moonies, Hare Krishna, Children of God, and the missionary organizations are making inroads in all circles to lure our children to conversion .... This is our last stand in a war declared on our very existence as Jews." Jewish opposition to the cults is part of a larger scheme of Jewish opposition to all Christian (or other evangelical) outreach. Unfortunately, this is a problem that will take many years of Jewish-Christian dialogue to resolve, for "bearing witness to the word" is an essential component to the Christian faith. Again, in this context, the new religions are merely the easiest targets or weakest links, in a much larger chain being attacked by the Jewish community.

Rabbi Maurice Davis seems to be the originator of the anti-religious movement in Judaism. In early 1974 he began writing articles against the Unification Church and started deprogramming its members. At that time he wrote: "I know them [Unification Church members] for what they are, and I am their enemy.... I doubt that the group will be in existence in 1980." In 1975 he helped to establish "Citizens Engaged in Reuniting Families" (CERF). Up to the present he has remained an integral part of the anti-Unification Church movement. Rather than look at why young people are not attracted to his own synagogue, Rabbi Davis has found an enemy to attack.

He shows nothing but disgust for the new religions, and describes members of such religions as prisoners. In my office I have a pile of hate literature published in the Jewish press against the new religions. The articles number in the hundreds. How tragic for the victim of so much religious bigotry to now seek to execute another religious group.

Mental Health Experts Who Abridge Religious Freedom

During the past five or ten years, some mental health experts have begun to decide which religions are proper for people to follow. Chief in this movement are Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, whose "findings" have been broadcast through the sensationalist media. Conway and Siegelman became interested in cults in 1974 when they researched certain groups for Harper's magazine, where they were managing editor and writer/editor respectively. After six years of research they came to the conclusion that the only successful way to break away from a cult is through the controversial technique known as deprogramming. Their book Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change presents analyses of religious experience from the viewpoint of atheistic materialism. Their final conclusion is: "Contrary to popular opinion, our exploration has confirmed for us that there is really nothing human inside human beings. It's all biology, chemistry and machinery." 5

Their second book, which again attempts to discredit religion, is Holy Terror (1981), an attack on the fundamentalist evangelical Christian movement. Conway and Siegelman claim that this is the next lunatic fringe group in line after the new religions. Many who were perhaps impressed with their first book now have a keener insight into this team's real motives.

Dr. John Clark is the executive director of the Center on Destructive Cultism, an organization located in Boston and sponsored by the American Family Foundation (AFF). He has reportedly stated that Catholicism was a cult until it grew larger, and that certain monks might still be under mind control. If psychiatry has the power to determine mental illness based on religious beliefs, its treatment could conceivably include such infamous psychiatric techniques as electro-shock therapy, lobotomy, sleep deprivation, and forced drugging, with or without the person's informed consent. In a recent paper published by the Center on Destructive Cultism ("Destructive Cult Conversions: Theory, Research and Treatment") deprogramming is described as a "sometimes forced reawakening of the convert's old personality," and is described as one of the possible treatments for members of new religions.

"What Dr. Clark... [says]," writes Dr. Lee Coleman, a California psychiatrist who specializes in abuses within the mental health profession, is "that the act of joining an unpopular religion was in itself a sign of mental illness." In many cases judges accepted such ideas and granted conservatorships of members of new religions, who were then turned over to parents, Psychiatrists, and deprogrammers. "Often the person for whom a conservatorship was requested was not even told such a hearing was taking place. The fact that in many cases the psychiatrists or psychologist had never seen the person, and was basing his professional opinion strictly on information received from the parents, seemed to make no difference to the judges." 6

Dr. Margaret Singer is a clinical psychologist, a member in good standing of what might be called the American psychology establishment. She has been called as an expert to give evidence before courts. In the past her work has centered on brainwashing techniques used by communists against American POWs in Korea. She is also interested in the new churches and has provided psychological guidance for former members of new religions. She considers herself, and is considered by many, an authority on the new religions and their real or alleged malpractices. Her work, unfortunately, suffers from a variety of disabilities. These include a lack of historical perspective, inadequate knowledge of the comparative theology necessary for a researcher in the field of religion, an apparent failure to grasp the varieties of religious motivation, a seeming unwillingness to consider adherence to an unorthodox religion as a legitimate form of behavior guaranteed under the Constitution, and a remarkable propensity for drawing sweeping conclusions from inadequate evidence.

Her grotesque caricatures of life in a religious movement border on the absurd, yet they have been accepted and repeated over and over again by the general public:

From the time prospects are invited to the cult's domicile, they are caught up in a round of long, repetitive lectures couched in hypnotic metaphors and exalted ideas. . . .Several groups send their members to bed wearing headsets that pipe sermons into their ears as they sleep. That's after hours of listening to tapes of the leader's exhortations while awake. 7

To Dr. Singer, everyone in this religious world is a mindless robot who must be saved by the new priest with the new religious theology. Dr. Singer becomes the high priestess of the new psychology. She has her own esoteric knowledge, she is very clear about the evil satans to be destroyed, and she is on a crusade to spread her gospel. Her fees for a court appearance, I am told, are $1,000 a day.

Dr. Singer cannot emancipate herself from her own secular assumptions. As she sees it, religion must not challenge the compartmentalization of life into the separate religious and social spheres. Total religious commitment of the kind once demanded by Jesus and Mohammed would certainly appear to her a deviant form of activity. Such commitment is explicable to her only in terms of artful manipulation by mind-benders. The use of coercion for the purpose of restoring the believer to his or her original state of mind makes Dr. Singer all too tolerant of deprogrammers.

The use or abuse of psychiatry to establish norms of behavior is not unfamiliar to the rulers of the Soviet Union. Political dissidents are labeled as mentally incompetent and confined to hospitals for treatment. For, obviously, one must be somewhat abnormal not to appreciate the blessings of Soviet Russia. In logic of the same manner, if one does not embrace the value-free norm of contemporary American culture, there is cause for alarm.

The Sensationalist Media

The media have been referred to as the fourth branch of government. When given the choice between a story about a boy scout who helps ladies as opposed to one who mugs them, the choice will be the more sensational one every time, making the bad press given the Unification Church understandable.

Publications have made a fetish of words like cult, brainwash, slavery, victim. "Cultism Is Emotional Slavery" reads one headline in the San Francisco Chronicle. 8 "Moonie 'Brainwash' Charged" reads a second Chronicle article. 9 Since San Francisco was the home of Jim Jones's People's Temple, any unorthodox religion (in the eyes of the Chronicle) becomes fair game for sensational coverage. The Chronicle, like most other newspapers, overlooks the fact that Jones's congregation was part of a mainline denomination, not even of a small sect.

"Moon Accused of Plotting to Rule World" reads a headline in the Modesto Bee, a California newspaper that picked up a UPI story. 10 The article describes, in tones suggesting clandestine evil, the growth of the international Unification movement. "Reverend Moon Wants You" was once the lead story of the Reader, San Diego's weekly magazine. 11 Finally, the media have had a field day making word games with Reverend Moon's name. "The Dark Side of Moon" 12 is a title that has been repeated many times in the last ten years.

Remembering Convent Cruelties of 1919, we get a better perspective on the media's need for a scapegoat. In June 1880, the newspaper The Protestant Vindicator published the preamble of an anti-Catholic society:

... whereas, the influence of Romanism is rapidly extending throughout this Republic, endangering the peace and freedom of our country -- therefore, being anxious to preserve the ascendancy of 'pure religion' and to maintain and perpetuate the genuine truths of Protestantism unadulterated, with devout confidence and the sanction of the great head of the Church to aid our efforts in withstanding the 'power in great authority of the beast and the strong delusion of the False Prophet,' we do hereby agree to be governed by the following constitution.

Simply change a few of the phrases in the previous statement and you have many people's description of the Unification Church, or any of the other new religions. In the introduction to his book New Religions and Mental Health, Dr. Herbert Richardson draws succinct parallels between the anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic propaganda of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the anti-cult propaganda of the later twentieth century. (See chart page 142.)

The stories about the Unification Church are part of the genre of anti-religious literature that Professor Harvey Cox describes in his article "Myths Sanctioning Religious Persecution." 13 Essentially, these false myths purport to describe the religious group in the following manner: The group will deceive you ("heavenly deception"); it is dominated by a foreign influence (the Pope or the KCIA); the leader is a charlatan; and the group uses the technique of "the evil eye" to capture the mind and soul of its converts. The stereo types continue ad nauseum.

Jesus was perhaps the most controversial figure of human history. While he was alive he received accusations from Romans and Jews, rich and poor, pious and proud. There was, and continues to be, a great deal of accusation against his life and work. So, too, is there against anyone who seeks to do God's work in any large way.

Finally, one might ask: What about the ex-member of a faith who makes the same accusations as those who know nothing of the group? The only ex-members I know who have made public accusations against the Unification Church were those who were violently kidnapped, locked up, and coerced into recanting their beliefs. This criminal activity of deprogramming or "faith-breaking" has as its central purpose the destruction of a church member's belief in the church itself, its leaders, and practices. As love turns quickly to hate, a trusting believer can become a cynical bigot. How? Let us analyze the process.

Anti-Catholicism

Anti-Semitism

Anti-Cultism

The Pope is seeking to take over the world.

The Jews are seeking to take over the world. ( The Protocols of the Elders of Zion)

Moon is seeking to take over the world.

Catholicism is not a true religion, but a political system

Judaism is not a religion, but a political system.

The Unification Church is not a church, but a political front group.

Catholics aren't loyal, Americans, but are really loyal to Rome, a foreign power.

Jews aren't loyal, Americans, but are really loyal to Israel

Moon teaches Americans to fight for Korea.

The Catholic Church exploits the poor in order to build rich churches and buy land.

Jews are really only after money.

Moon claims to be a prophet, but is really only after profit.

The priests enslave the minds of young people, inculcating irrational superstition.

Judaism is a legalistic, tribalistic system, ritualistic and anti-rational.

Moon brainwashes his converts.

Catholics control their young people's lives by teaching that sex is evil.

Jews control their young people's lives by making them feel guilty about marrying a non-Jew.

Moon controls young people's lives by making them remain chaste and then arranging their marriages.

Catholics justify lying by "mental reservation."

Jews always lie.

Moonies don't tell the truth, but practice "heavenly deception."

Catholics entice children, while too young to decide for themselves, to become nuns and priests.

Jews kidnap gentile children for vile purposes.

Moon entices the young to leave their families.

Catholics are swarthy(Latin) and have too many children.

Jews have crooked noses and are verminous.

Moonies have glazed eyes and are undernourished.

From Herbert Richardson, ed., New Religions and Mental Health (New York and Toronto: the Edwin Mellen Press, 1980) p. xxvii, reprinted by permission.


1. Helen Jackson, Convent Cruelties (Toledo, Ohio: self-published, 1919).

2. Bamber Gasciogne, The Christians (London: Johnathan Cape Ltd., 1977), p. 26.

3. (New York: T. Mason & G. Love).

4. Ibid., p. 8.

5. Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Snapping.- America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change (New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1978), p. 225.

6. Lee Coleman, Psychiatry and the Faithbreaker (Sacramento, California: Printing Dynamics, 1982), p. 8.

7. Margaret Singer, "Coming out of the Cults" reprinted from Psychology Today Magazine, Copyright January 1979 (American Psychological Association).

8. 14 December 1978.

9. 11 March 1977.

10. 2 November 1978.

11. 8 May 1980.

12. Los Angeles Herald Examiner, 18 November 1979.

13. Harvey X. Cox, "Myths Sanctioning Religious Persecution"; A Time for Consideration, eds. M. Darrol Bryant and Herbert Richardson (New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1978), pp. 3-19.

 Download entire page and pages related to it in ZIP format
Table of Contents
Information
Tparents Home