The Words of the Fefferman Family
Testimony of Dan Fefferman on Cult Activities
Submitted to the Maryland Task Force to Study the Effects of Cult Activities on Public Senior Higher Educational Institutions
June 7, 1999
My name is Dan Fefferman. I currently serve as Executive Director of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom (ICRF) in Tysons Corner, Virginia. I am a member of the Unification Church a former National Director of Witnessing and Education for the Unification Church of America and a former National President of the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principle. I speak today as a representative of the ICRF, and do not officially represent the Church or CARP. I hold a B.A. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley and a Master Diploma in divinity from the Unification Theological Seminary.
The chairman of this Task Force has expressed his commitment to fairness, integrity and balance in these proceedings, and I take him at his word. In this context, I believe it is necessary to examine the legislative mandate that created the Task Force in the first place. It will be a real challenge, in my opinion, to create fairness and balance in the context of this mandate.
First, I question whether it is appropriate for any State Legislature in the U.S. to use the term "cult" in mandating an investigation such as this. The term clearly has pejorative connotations and tends to favor established religions over smaller and unpopular ones. Not only does this violate the U.S. constitution’s prohibitions against religious establishment, it also goes against international conventions to which the U.S. is a signatory. To cite only one of these, I point to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right of religious belief, association and speech. The U.N.’s Human Rights Committee in 1993 specified that:
Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions… The Committee views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reasons, including the fact that they are newly established…
The Maryland Constitution, of course, also guarantees freedom of religious belief and expression. The State of Maryland can be justly proud of pioneering efforts in the field of religious freedom. It would be a shame if our State now became a pioneer in the other direction.
Beyond the constitutional issue, I would also point to the manner in which the State of Maryland went about the process of creating this Task Force. At hearings before the Maryland House of Delegates on the subject, nine proponents were heard, zero opponents were heard, and one person was heard who identified himself as having "no position." I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that there are qualified experts in the field of civil liberties, religion and psychology who would strongly oppose the resolution creating this Task Force. Moreover there are plenty of parents who accept their children’s membership in this groups, as well as members and ex-members who would oppose the idea that their groups are "dangerous." Apparently very little if any effort was made to contact them. I believe it would not be out of order for this Task Force to make this point in any report it submits to the governor.
Moreover, well-meaning though the Task Force leadership and staff may be, the Task Force has already behaved in a way that violates the rights of religious minorities. Specifically, it has asked System institutions whether any "cult" members are employed as resident assistants. To answer this question, institutions must inquire into the religious affiliations of its employees with the clear result that supposed "cult" members could suffer negative consequences. In responding to the Task Force’s questionnaire, one System institution, namely the Baltimore County campus, rightfully requested an advisory from the Attorney General’s office about the constitutional permissibility of such an inquiry. Yet when the Assistant Attorney General appeared here at the Task Force’s last meeting, he was not asked to give such advice. An audience member asked him about the subject and he replied that he could give such advice only at the request of the chair. I submit that it would be very important for this Task Force to hear from him about the question of its constitutional limits.
I believe the Task Force is very close to engaging in a form of religious McCarthyism, creating a "cult scare" that could do serious harm. I know several members of the Unification Church -- a group named by Mr. Ron Loomis in his testimony before the Task Force as a dangerous "cult" -- who are employed by the University System in teaching and other positions, and some of them have expressed concern to me regarding their careers. I put it to you, Mr. Chairman, that however well meaning it may have been, the Task Force’s behavior has already put pressure on members of a religious minority at the Maryland System, in such a way that may constitute a violation of civil rights laws. I am not a lawyer, however, and I do not expect you to take my word for it.
In this regard I call on the Task Force to consult with legal experts in the field of constitutional law and religious liberty. There are many public advocacy groups in this area who could help you -- Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Rutherford Institute and the Joint Baptist Committee to name only a few.
A Stacked Deck?
I also have concerns about procedure and the make-up of the Task Force. The chairman last week stated that the hearings would proceed in a manner analogous to a court trial, with the prosecution going first, and the defense getting a chance in subsequent hearings. Fair enough. But in a courtroom, a defendant has the right to impeach the objectivity of jurors before the jury is seated. No such opportunity was given to the groups in question here. In fact, two of the fact-finders on the Task Force are identified as parents of "cultists" or former "cultists." No defense attorney nor any impartial judge would allow such jurors to be seated in a trail. With due respect, I must particularly object to the behavior of that the Chairman of the Committee on Outside Resources, Mr. Franz Wilson, who arranged for last meetings parade of anti-cult witnesses. The Task Force has still not called any witnesses who are experts on religious freedom and no representatives of the groups in question themselves. Last week’s open session at which the public may testify on a first come, first serve basis does not balance the record. Moreover, when my associate, Mr. Alex Colvin, expressed concern over the use of the pejorative term "Moonie" Mr. Wilson responded that he didn’t care because "the Unification Church is a hateful and deceptive organization." Not only is this a possible case of religious harassment, but I submit it is certainly a demonstration of extreme prejudice on the part of Mr. Wilson. I call for the dismissal of Mr. Wilson from his position as chair of the Committee on Outside Resources and for his removal from the Task Force. To create more balance, I recommend he be replaced by a parent who, rather than opposing his child’s commitment to a new religion, approves of it.
I further urge the other members of the Task Force to recognize that although there are ardent opponents of new religions on the Task Force, there are currently no known ardent proponents of these groups. If the Task Force is like a court, then you are like a jury in which several members had made up their minds to hang the defendant before the trial even began. The group dynamics of your deliberations will be affected by this imbalance and you need to be aware of this. This was already demonstrated last meeting by the fact that, at the close of the meeting, several members congratulated the Task Force for the "balance" it had achieved thus far, when the chairman himself had to admit that one side predominated.
Getting back to the courtroom analogy, I would point out in a courtroom a defendant has the right to confront his accusers. This Task Force has accepted testimony from three self-described ex-cultists who declined to name the groups with which they were identified. How can such charges be answered? I strongly caution the Task Force from reaching any generalizations or conclusions from this very questionable anecdotal "evidence." I further point out that only one of the three gave evidence of "cult" activity at a Maryland System campus. One of the others had already graduated (from a non-System school) when she got involved in an unnamed human potential group. A second was already a member of an unnamed "cult" before entering college when she was converted to a more orthodox Christian group at Bowie State. It was only then that she decided that her former religion was a "cult." Both her former religion and her new one remain unnamed. In other words, the committee has been able to produce only one witness who was recruited by a "cult" at a Maryland System school. That "cult" too remains unnamed. It may also be noted that these witnesses appeared to be coached, both before and during their testimony, by Prof. Denny Gulick.
Cults as Religious Minorities
Although there has been an attempt to claim that religious groups are not specifically targeted by this Task Force, no one would deny that the majority of those groups in question, if not all of them, are indeed religious groups. I submit to you that the groups called "cults" are for the most part really religious minorities of a generally benign nature. The Task Force needs to be aware that its recommendations could have a chilling effect on the exercise of the religious freedom of these minorities. Rather than a "cult awareness" approach, I would like to see the Task Force adopt a program to celebrate religious diversity, in which all groups, not only the large established ones are included. Surely if the university can encourage racial diversity and sexual diversity, it could also encourage religious diversity. As Mr. Loomis offered himself as a consultant on cult awareness, I would be happy to consult with the University on a program to celebrate religious freedom and diversity. My organization, the International Coalition for Religious Freedom, last year sponsored four international conferences on religious freedom in Washington, Tokyo, Berlin and Sao Paulo. Participants included a Nobel Prize laureate, two former heads of state, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, several former U.S. ambassadors, heads of well known human rights organizations, legislators, religious leaders, scholars, lawyers and journalists. Unlike Mr. Loomis, I am not looking for a fee for this service. (for more information see www.religiousfreedom.com)
Mr. Chairman, last week I raised an objection to the use of University resources to distribute the pamphlet "Friends Are Everywhere." This pamphlet, created by a Lutheran campus minister with the help of Mr. Loomis, cautions students to beware of "new ideas" and tells the tale of young woman seduced by a "group" into dropping out of school. In my view, the provision of this pamphlet by the University to campus ministers of established denominations so as to discourage students from investigating their competitors’ "new ideas" is a clear violation of the principle of separation of church and state. Such a pamphlet might be acceptable in Germany, where Lutheranism is a state religion supported by public funds. But in the U.S., the state may not act in a way that favors certain religions over others. Rather than recommending that the University beef up such unconstitutional projects, I call on the Task Force to recommend that this project be discontinued immediately.
By the way, this pamphlet is very similar -- almost identical in fact--to other pamphlets created with Mr. Loomis’ help on other campuses, such as the University of Southern California. The Task Force might want to take a look at whether the testimonies in this pamphlet really come from actual University of Maryland cases, or whether terms like, "College Park" were simply inserted for convenience. After all, wouldn’t want the University to be practicing "heavenly deception." Nor would we want the University to be acting as an unwitting "front group" for the anti-cult movement.
Speaking of front groups, perhaps we ought to unpack this term a little. Mr. Loomis alleges that there are literally thousands of Unification Church front groups. But a look at the actual list -- which I can provide if the Task Force is interested--makes this allegation laughable. It includes a well known daily newspaper in Washington DC, a University in Connecticut, The Unification Theological Seminary, several nursery schools started by church members, a number of private businesses and sole proprietorships, and even a few names of individual persons. It seems that anything a Unificationist creates, whether it’s a music group, a real estate company, a law office, a fishing business, a school, a training facility, a church, a farm, a newsletter, or a web site is to be considered a front group. I said this was laughable, but it is also a very serious matter if one considers the potential it holds for religious discrimination. I know of several church members who have suffered financial consequences from efforts by anti-cultists to expose their private businesses as "fronts" for a "Moon" conspiracy to take over the world.
As far as I know, there are only three groups on Mr. Loomis’ list of any relevance here. One is the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles, another is the Pure Love Alliance, and a third is the Women’s Federation for World Peace. Neither CARP nor PLA is currently active at any Maryland System school to my knowledge.
For reference, CARP is a well established 501C-3 educational organization with headquarters in New York. It does own a property adjacent to the campus, near the corner of University Blvd and Aldelphi Rd. However, as I say, it is not currently active on campus. CARP has distinct purposes and practices from the Unification Church, but shares with the Church the fact that it was founded by Reverend Moon and it educates students about his teachings. Its relationship to the UC is analogous, for example, to the relationship between the Catholic Youth Organization and the Catholic Church, or the Hillel Foundation and Judaism. Also, as an educational organization, it receives fewer tax-benefits than does the Church. To call CARP a "front group," is simply to put a negative label on it. However, the question of deceptive tactics does deserve some consideration, as does the question of whether it encourages students to drop out of school.
CARP is proud of its association with Reverend Moon as does not hide them. It would be against CARP’s national policy to bring someone to an off-campus weekend workshop without informing them of the connection between CARP and Rev. Moon. If the University becomes aware of such actions by CARP members, I am sure the national office would like to know about it. However, I do NOT think it is ethically or otherwise necessary for every CARP member to inform people they meet on campus of CARP’s connection before inviting the person to a lecture or event. I would object to an attempt by the University to regulate this issue by requiring CARP to mention Reverend Moon or the UC on every piece of literature it distributes.
The Pure Love Alliance is a single-issue educational group started by CARP members and others to popularize the idea of sexual abstinence and chastity among young people. It does not focus on Unification doctrine or Rev. Moon and does not serve to recruit people into the Unification Church. Although it is not currently active in the Maryland System, I expect it will become active there in the next couple of years. I hope the University community will welcome this much needed effort. Pure Love Alliance is no more a front group than are the pro-life coalitions started by Catholics or the groups founded by Buddhists to protest human rights abuses in China.
The Women’s Federation for World Peace is an educational and service organization which has NGO (non-Government Organization) status at the United Nations. Among its other activities, it has recently sponsored several public talks on University System campuses. Last April it sponsored a talk by Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon. The event was well covered by the Diamondback. In recent years WFWP has sponsored or co-sponsored similar talks by Mrs. Moon and other members of the Moon family on the campuses of Bowie State University, Towson State University and the College Park campus. Attendance at these talks ranged from about 300 to 1500. It would be difficult to understand how an organization sponsoring a talk by Mrs. Moon or other persons with the name Moon could be considered a deceptive front group. In terms of recruitment, there was an invitation given at some of these talks for people to attend the International Marriage Blessing at RFK Stadium in 1997 and other similar events. (Also at Bowie State, there were two or three follow-up meetings on campus.) I have no statistics as to how many people attended marriage Blessings or if any other them joined the Unification Church. However, I should point out that membership in the Church is no longer a requirement to participate in the Blessing ceremonies and that, in fact, most participants were not UC members.
The new religious movements of the 1970s are now well into their second generation. Soon, second generation NRM members will become significant minorities on Maryland University campuses. For example, there are several hundred Unificationist teenagers currently residing in Maryland. Unificationists are a highly educated group compared to national averages and they tend to aspire to higher education for their children. I expect that more than one hundred young adult Unificationists will enter the Maryland State University System in the next few years, and many more as we reach the second part of the next decade. I do not know the numbers for other groups, but I would urge the Task Force to keep this general demographic trend in mind. In addition to protecting students who might be victimized by cult "behaviors," you also need to understand that these second generation NRM members have sensitivities and rights that need to be carefully respected and protected.
Consider the following stories, of which the first two are factual and the third is hypothetical.
1. A boy comes home from school in tears. His mother asks what the matter is. He replies, "The other kids were making fun of me. They called me a Moonie!." The mother answers, "well, you know, dear, we are members of the Unification Church, and some people call us Moonies." The boy cries out, "I am not a Moonie! I am not a Moonie!!!"
2. A teenage girl attends a psychology class in an Anne Arundel County public school and hears a presentation against "cults," in which behaviors such as "love-bombing" and "heavenly deception" are criticized as methods of bringing a person under "mind control." The teacher proceeds to explain that the "deceptive cult" practicing these behaviors is the Unification Church. She calls the group "Moonies" and equates its founder with Adolf Hitler.
3. A university freshman arrives at the College Park campus and receives a pamphlet -- "Friends Are Everywhere"--during orientation week. It warns of dangerous groups practicing deception and mind control. At lunch he overhears a group of students talking about which groups the pamphlet was talking about. "Oh, you know," one of the students says, "the Moonies, Scientology, Hare Khrishna," groups like that. "Well you wouldn’t catch ME joining one of those cults," says another. Later, the freshman fills out a university questionnaire in which he is asked his religious preference. Privately, he’s a Unificationist, but he decides to leave the line blank. He has effectively been driven into the closet by the System.
Speaking of the term "Moonie," I also need to put it on the record that the Unification Church considers this term to be hate language. The New York City Civil Liberties Commission has declared it a pejorative term, as have several national media groups, and it is listed as an inappropriate term for usage by the Associate Press stylebook. I call on the chairman to ban its further use in these hearings and deliberations. The Task Force should also consider whether terms such as "Moonie," and "cultist" be considered a hate crime, and whether disciplinary action ought to be taken against students and University officials who use such epithets.
What about that "behaviors," that Mr. Loomis and Dr. Gulick want you to regulate and warn against? They tell you for example about the Unificationist term "absolute obedience." They paint pictures of mindless zombies dropping out of school to sell flowers on the street. But what of the vows of obedience that Catholic clergy take? Can you criticize one and leave the other untouched? And are you aware that, while Rev. Moon does promote "absolute obedience" that he also teaches the concept of "Conscience before teacher, Conscience before True Parents, Conscience before God." Do you know that he teaches there are three stages of obedience: unquestioning obedience, questioning obedience, and intuitive obedience? That absolute obedience is not synonymous with unquestioning obedience? Or that intuitive obedience sometimes requires a person even to go against the advice of one’s leader, including Rev. Moon himself? No. Of course you don’t know this. Mr. Loomis and Dr. Gulick did not tell you this. After all, they would not want to complicate things for you.
And for the record, although I think a religious devotee has a perfect right to drop out of school and sell flowers on the street if he chooses to, such is currently not the case with the UC. I do know people who dropped out of school temporarily to devote themselves to church activities during the 1970s. However, many of these later returned to school and many now hold advanced degrees. Some did not return to school but are living happy and productive lives as UC members. Others became disillusioned and left the church. Among those that left there are some who are bitter and regret leaving school, while others feel it was the right decision for them at the time. Of course, those who have been "deprogrammed" or "exit counseled" tend to be among the group that is bitter. Again, I caution the Task Force about generalizing. Thus far you have heard from only one type of ex-member. An important new study has just been published on this phenomenon: "The Politics of Religious Apostasy," edited by David Bromley of Virgina Commonwealth University.
Speaking for myself, I joined the UC in 1968 while on leave of absence from the University of California at Berkeley. Shortly after joining, I returned to the University, achieving much better grades than I had earned before joining. My parents were favorably impressed with the improvement in my character and performance after joining, although they were concerned about the fact that I had become a believer (they are not religious.) Several years later they were approached by anti-cultists and told all kinds of horror stories in an attempt to have me "deprogrammed." I am happy to say that they did not succumb to this pressure and that we remained close until the passed away a few years ago.
I caution the Task Force not to take the word of anti-cultists about the beliefs and practices of any religious group. Instead, I urge you to consult recognized academic experts in the fields of sociology of religion, theology, the history of religion, and psychology. Also, when allegations are made concerning the "behaviors" of specific groups, the groups themselves ought to be so informed and invited to defend themselves.
The first law of medicine is "do no harm." This would be a good principle for the Task Force to keep in mind as it moves toward the creation of its report. In Europe today the cult scare has resulted in very serious problems including:
Parliamentary lists of dangerous "cults" and "sects"
The banning of members of a religious minority (Church of Scientology) from major political parties
Discrimination against "sect" members in housing, education, finance and employment
A government ministry to "fight against" sects in France
State education programs that educate children against their parents’ religions
An atmosphere of religious intolerance against new and smaller religions
I earnestly hope the Task Force will not become a first step toward a wave of what I call "Sectophobia" in the United States.
However, there is reason to be concerned. The Task Force thus far has called far more anti-cult witnesses than scholars of new religions or experts on questions of religious liberty. Today’s open session is a step in the right direction, but far more work needs to be done to balance the record. Moreover, the composition of the Task Force and its legislative mandate are seriously weighted against newer and smaller religions.
Nevertheless there may be reason for hope. The German Enquette Commission to Study Sects and Psycho-Groups, after nearly two years of study, came to the conclusion that no generalizations could be made about such groups and that the term "Sect" should no longer be used. The Task Force would do well to report a similar conclusion about "cults" in Maryland institutions of higher learning. Unfortunately the record of such commissions is not a good one. Witch hunts rarely come to the conclusion that witches are not a problem.
I do not mean to say that no religious groups or high intensity political movements have behaved unethically or dangerously. But there are already state laws and university regulations that govern such behaviors. And old American wisdom saying goes, "If it aint broke don’t fix it." If any fixing needs to be done, it would be in the area of ensuring that the religious freedom and sensitivities of religious minorities on Maryland campuses. My specific recommendations are:
1. The Task Force should include in its report a discussion about whether its legislative mandate was constitutional and whether fair and balanced public hearings were conducted in the process of its creation.
2. The Task Force should seek advice from the Attorney General about the permissibility of asking System institutions about the religious affiliations of its employees, specifically whether it acted improperly by requiring such information in its questionnaire.
3. The Task Force should seek testimony from scholars of new religions, constitutional law and psychology relevant to the questions at hand. It should recognize that the current record is strongly balanced in favor of anti-cult witnesses.
4. The Chairman should dismiss the Chairman of the Committee on Outside Resources from the Task Force for his inappropriate behavior and extreme prejudice. He should be replaced on the Task Force by a parent who favors his/her child’s involvement in an NRM. The Chairman should take personal responsibility to ensure that outside resources are sought which are truly objective and balanced.
5. The Task Force should recommend that the University System create a program to promote religious freedom and to celebrate religious diversity, giving special attention to the rights and sensitivities of religious minorities.
6. The Task Force should recommend that the anti-NRM pamphlet "Friends Are Everywhere" no longer be distributed by the University, because this pamphlet unconstitutionally uses State resources to put certain smaller and newer religious groups at a disadvantage against the larger established religions.
7. The Task Force should not recommend any orientation program for freshmen or other educational effort which tends to favor established religions over newer and smaller ones.
8. The Task Force should recognize the right of religious believers to form associations and single issue advocacy groups without labeling such activities as "deceptive" or identifying these associations and groups as "fonts" for "dangerous cults."
9. The Chairman should ban the hate-word "Moonie" from being used in these proceedings.
10. The Task Force should be careful that in considering regulating "behaviors" it not be seduced into attempting to control constitutionally protected speech, association and belief. It also needs to consult scholars and theologians about the meaning of such "behaviors" in a religious context, rather than relying on the interpretation of anti-cult advocates.
11. The Task Force should recommend that the term "Moonie," "cultist" and similar epithets be considered hate language and that students and University personnel using such language be subject to disciplinary action.
12. The Task Force should seek testimony not only from "apostate" members of "cults," but also from ex-members who have not joined the anti-cult movement, as well as from current members.
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