The Words of the Selle Family
The power of the IRS represented by the conviction of Rev. Moon is "a sword of Damocles hanging over our religious liberty," said the Rev. Albert Tyson, moderator of a "Rally for Religious Freedom" held at the luxurious Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.
Rev. Tyson, pastor of Mt. Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church in Jersey City, N.J., said, "The IRS is a new American Sanhedrin," referring to the Israelite executive body which allegedly plotted to kill Jesus.
More than 400 New York-area ministers and rabbis, representing a broad spectrum of religious beliefs and all shades of liberal and conservative social values, assembled in New York on Monday, June 11 at 10 a.m.
The meeting was co-chaired by Rev. Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC -- a civil rights organization founded by Dr. Martin Luther King) and former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Eugene J. McCarthy. It protested growing government influence unto religious affairs. In particular, many of the speakers expressed grave concern about the tax-fraud conviction and impending incarceration of our True Father.
Those at the meeting, sponsored by the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Freedom, denounced the government's "persecution" of Father and the threat posed by the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service to all religions in America. Symbolic of the religious variety of the audience, the speakers represented such viewpoints as "liberal" Reform Judaism, the African Methodist Episcopal church, humanism, "personal mysticism," the Baptist church, and the Methodist church.
The Rev. Dr. Earl Moore, head of the Prison Chaplains Program in New York State and pastor of the St. Paul Baptist Church, said, "Our agenda this morning is a divine agenda. The issue is: to be free or not to be!"
Over and over, those who took the podium defended a religious leader's right to hold church money on behalf of his church. They said that Father's use of church funds was consistent with his church's theology, had full approval of his church's membership, and was done in a manner similar to that followed by many mainline churches. The speakers blasted the government for its "violation" of Father's religious liberty.
New York City June 11, 1984, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Rev. Lowery speaking.
Former U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy said, he came to "sound a warning" about the erosion of the separation between church and state. "If [the IRS] can now determine what is a true religion," he said. "The religion of the people is now the religion of the Internal Revenue Service." The IRS "has been gaining more and more authority over every aspect of life in this country," said the politician from Minnesota. The agency's tax code already defines art, education and family, Senator McCarthy said, and now, "for the first time in a significant way, it has moved in on religion."
Decrying the Supreme Court's refusal to hear Father's appeal, the Rev. Oscar McLaughlin, president of the Northeast Council on Christian Concerns, said nothing now stands in the way of the government "imposing the same sanctions on our churches as on Rev. Moon's."
Rev. Lowery, who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King during the heyday of the civil rights movement, said that blacks could easily identify with the plight of Rev. Moon. "Those of us who have known the pain of persecution," he said, "cannot remain silent."
Rev. Lowery urged the clergy to "protest the growing scorn for the sacred" in society today. "We must defend the rights of Rev. Moon, because his rights are my rights and your rights." Commenting on the diversity of the political and religious beliefs of those coming to the support of Father, Rev. Lowery said, "God is moving in a mysterious way to wake us up. There is a mighty, negative wind blowing against religious liberty." He then concluded by reading a proclamation condemning the government's treatment of Father, which was unanimously adopted by the rally.
Soviet emigrê and author, Lev Navrozov echoed Senator McCarthy's concerns about the IRS. "Tax returns," he said, "can be converted into a convenient tool of political repression." Rev. Moon is "being railroaded into prison" and is the victim of a "disgraceful frame-up," he said.
Mr. Navrozov said that everyone in America lives in fear of the IRS.
The laws are notoriously ambiguous. Give me, each of you, your tax returns and I'll send you 10 times to prison by the same standards that Rev. Moon was railroaded into prison. Let me call my lawyers and accountants and they'll send you 100 times to prison by the same standards. Senator McCarthy spoke about it... We are all threatened, we are all vulnerable. The proof of it is that no American can fill out his own tax returns. He has to call up some technicians, medieval scribes.... [They create] mysterious sums, going on for pages and pages, and who the hell can be responsible for that?
Concluding, Mr. Navrozov cried out, "Ring the bell, let it be heard all over the United States and all over the world. Rev. Moon should not go to prison, or otherwise we are all in prison."
Dr. Richard Rubenstein, Lawton Distinguished Professor of Religion at Florida State University, spoke passionately of the eight years that he has known Father personally. He recalled the years that Father spent as a prisoner in a concentration camp in communist North Korea. "What mortifies me," he said, "is that a man of God imprisoned by the communists may be imprisoned by the American government."
The Harvard-trained theologian said that Rev. Moon believes he was charged by the voice of God "to raise up a community of people who would make this a better world." He continued:
[However,] If I were to claim that I heard the voice of God, you would be greatly suspicious. You know why? I am Harvard-educated! And with no disrespect to my alma mater, I can tell you that Harvard men are trained not to hear the voice of God. In America you leave it to Pentecostals and Charismatics to hear the voice of God, because those are the people you want to control. The people who do the controlling do not hear the voice of God. Sun Myung Moon at early age heard the voice of God. I can give you a rational, psycho-analytic, economic, sociological explanation of how Sun Myung Moon was projecting, but all I would be doing would be interpreting his experience in terms of my Harvard-trained control language. And for me to tell him that his experience can only be understood in my categories is the ultimate arrogance.
Jeremiah Gutman, president of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, "The persecution of Rev. Moon by the Internal Revenue Service and this administration is but one example of the kind of religious persecution that has been going on for a number of years." He pointed out that the "laws of the use of real estate are being perverted to keep out the unpopular. Zoning laws and other land use laws are used to keep out churches from communities that do not want them."
In a brief speech, American Indian leader Mark Banks reminded the participants that the Native Americans have been the victims of repeated religious persecution at the hands of white immigrants. "When the white people came to the shores of this hemisphere, they came here seeking freedom and liberty and justice," Banks said. "And then they turned around and formed a government that oppressed and subjugated my people, and characterized Indian people as pagans and heathens, stupid, illiterate, drunk, lazy and savage. But Indian people have been worshipping in their own way for thousands and thousands of years in this country." He ended his speech by referring to three American Indians who were fasting in the Marion, Illinois federal prison because they have been denied the practice of their Native American religion. "We must address ourselves to these issues," he said.
The rally concluded with a call for all those who would be willing to go to jail with Father for one week as sign of their commitment to religious freedom to stand. Nearly everyone did.
The Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Freedom will continue to hold rallies throughout the country, uniting clergy and righteous people from all backgrounds and beliefs under the banner of religious freedom. As Rev. Joseph Lowery said, "Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come."