The Words of the Selle Family

Religious Liberty and the First Amendment -- Report On the Senate Hearing

Angelika Selle
June 26, 1984
Washington D.C.

Senate Hearing on Religious Liberty at the Dirksen Senate Office Building of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., June 26, 1984.

Clergy and laymen representing many different religious groups waited several hours before the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., to be admitted to the Hearing on Religious Liberty held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. Many of them had travelled through the night in order to be there early enough and get a seat. They had come to express their personal support to the speakers as well as to represent their congregations.

About ten minutes before the doors opened, one minister stood up and said, "This is God's house; this is the nation founded by God; therefore, let us pray." A short prayer was followed by the inspiring song, "God Bless America."

Those ministers had come with deep concern about not only their own denomination's religious freedom, but religious liberty and the enforcement of the First Amendment throughout America today. Among the key witnesses (besides our Father) were Pastor Everett Sileven of the Faith Baptist Church of Louisville, Nebraska, who had already spent many months in prison over an ongoing dispute regarding his church-run school, a controversy in which seven other of his church's leaders were jailed as well, and Dr. Greg Dixon, national chairman of the Coalition of Unregistered Churches. Besides the latter two, who testified in person, prepared statements were accepted from Dr. Bob Jones Jr., chancellor of Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, and from the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (Hare Krishnas) and the Church of Scientology.

By 9 a.m., the hearing room was crowded with approximately three to four hundred people, while a few hundred more stood outside in the hallway or watched the events in a smaller room on closed-circuit TV. Father's oldest children were present in the hearing as well.

In his opening address, subcommittee chairman Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, expressed his deep concern for the First Amendment and its application. "There has seemed to be a recent acceleration of disputes between American citizens and the affairs of churches," he said.

This is the United States of America

Deviating from his prepared remarks, he said, "Jailings of ministers are especially disturbing to me. Here we are putting men of the cloth behind bars right here in the 20th century. It is more than disturbing to me; I think it's alarming. This isn't the Soviet Union, this isn't Poland, this isn't Afghanistan; this is the United States of America." These remarks were received with strong applause.

Senator Hatch called upon two constitutional experts to deliver their preliminary statements: Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Tribe and Attorney William B. Ball of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Professor Tribe said: "I believe that the ultimate aims of the First Amendment's religion clause are to facilitate spiritual volition by showing no government favoritism toward, or animosity against, any religious group or view, but instead letting each flourish according to the zeal of its adherents and the appeal of its doctrine."

Fearing an increasing subversion of those aims he said, "In disputes over matters as diverse as the teaching of children and the taxation of income, government institutions at all levels are arrogating to themselves the power to define new boundaries between the secular and the sacred to swallow the life of the spirit within the bowels of the bureaucracy and to surround the secular halls of the state with the sacred garb of the church."

Narrow Attitude Toward Religion

Attorney William Ball regretted in his statement the "narrow attitude toward religion in the occasional statements of governmental leaders. It seems that religious leaders are not to be heard to speak out on controversial issues. Great issues in our history, from slavery to abortion, not only call for religious virtue; the Constitution demands that that witness be allowed to the fullest scope. We must not be afraid of religious controversy; we must be afraid of the suppression of religious controversy."

The next two witnesses could certainly speak vehemently on the topic of religious freedom from their own experience: Dr. Greg Dixon and Pastor Everett Sileven.

"Where are the guarantees of complete religious liberty once guarded by the First Amendment?" Dr. Dixon asked. In his opinion, "the First Amendment is dead. The religious guarantees of the Constitution are now but a scrap of paper like in Russia and other Iron Curtain countries where you are free to believe but not to practice your faith. Lower court judges continually say, 'We cannot rule on the Constitution.' However, they are quick to rule in matters that, in my opinion, they have no jurisdiction."

"No nation on earth has been blessed as this nation. We must either say that God is responsible or that America is an accident in history. I believe, along with most Americans, that the hand of God has made this possible, but it seems to me that the government at all levels now is saying to God, 'We don't need you any longer, or your ambassadors. "

He concluded by saying, "If America falls, there will be no place to go."

Pastor Sileven in like manner mentioned many recent cases in which the IRS, "as the Gestapo-like agency" of the government, had become a law unto itself. After these two most powerful and eloquent speakers, Dr. Charles V. Bergstrom, Executive Director of the Office for Governmental Affairs of the Lutheran Council in the U.S., and therefore a representative of a mainline denomination, described his opinion, compared to what had been said previously, as "the voice in the wilderness." In his opinion the agency's intentions can sometimes be misinterpreted.

Senator Hatch then suggested a five-minute break. But not a minute later, the doors in the back opened and in came Father and Mother, immediately surrounded by ministers who wanted to shake their hands. There was no doubt Father would be the center of the hearing from this point on.

The Very Survival of America

Senator Hatch briefly introduced Father and his case, which in his opinion "involves some intriguing issues going to the very heart of religious freedom." Everyone expected to hear Father's statement in Korean with translation, but in order to save time he chose to read his 15-minute testimony in English. With a heavy accent, but with a warm, secure, and relaxed voice, Father read his powerful and moving statement.

Toward the end, Father said, "The issue today is the very survival of America and the free world. To assure this survival, I am willing to suffer any indignity, to go any distance, to do any labor, and to bear any cross. I am even willing to give my life, if that will ensure that the nation and world survive and do God's will."

Following Father's statement was a question-and-answer period in which Senator Hatch and Senator Dennis DeConcini, a Democrat from Arizona, queried Father. Father answered all of the questions promptly in a relaxed and confident manner. The TV cameras focused on Father more than anyone else, the man whom the media have caught so rarely in public.

Father's Request

At the conclusion of his testimony, Father submitted a request to Senator Hatch to seek a copy of a Justice Department "prosecution memorandum" of the Carter administration which recommended that the U.S. government not indict Father because no criminal case could be made against him. That had been the unanimous opinion of three career tax lawyers at the Justice Department whose job is to review cases for potential prosecution.

Father said that after they had delivered their opinion, in an unusual move, the three attorneys were ordered to reconsider their decision and perform a second review. After this review, they still recommended against prosecution. Then their opinion was referred to a higher-level political appointee with no criminal tax experience who reversed all recommendations of his own people and authorized prosecution by the U.S. Attorney in New York without giving any good reason.

Father said that the exposure of this document would show that his prosecution was politically motivated and that there was a conspiracy by certain government officials to "get" him. Father also requested that the Congressional Record be kept open for thirty days in order that a longer statement could be introduced. This request was granted by Senator Hatch.

Father expressed his deep gratitude to Senators Hatch and DeConcini, and, accompanied by jubilant applause from the audience, took his seat next to Mother in the front row.

The climax of the hearing was obviously over, for half of the media people left. Next, Professor Tribe and Attorney Ball returned to comment on the religious freedom issues involved in the testimonies they had just heard. Concerning a contention by Senator DeConcini that it had been fair for Father to be given a jury trial, Professor Tribe explained why it was justified for Father to ask for a bench trial (a trial by judge alone). "The premise of our system is that the defendant has a right to a jury of his peers and that ordinarily that is fairer... In the case of Rev. Moon, the trial judge himself made a rather important statement. He said he felt after hearing the prospective jurors that it would be fairer for this case involving, as it does, sensitive and symbolically difficult issues of religious freedom to be tried without a jury. And yet he felt that he was powerless in light of the prosecutors' insistence that a jury be used."

Senator Hatch was in complete agreement with Father's reasons for not wanting to be tried by a jury. He said "I might also say that Martin Luther was very unpopular in his time. So were Zwingli and Calvin and Knox and so many others." Senator Hatch also commented that coming from the Mormon faith which "in its day was a destined minority, I know that some of our church leaders did not have a very good opportunity for a fair trial and would not have had under those circumstances."

Senator Hatch again affirmed that he would inquire about the "prosecution memorandum" in the interest of Father and of future unpopular religious leaders in America.

Four more panel speakers were scheduled: Dr. James Kennedy, Senior Minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Dr. Herb Titus, Vice Pres. of Academic Affairs of the Christian Broadcasting University; Pastor E.V. Hill of Mount Zion Church, Los Angeles, and Vice President of the National Baptist Convention; and Dr. John Buchanan, former Congressman and Chairman of the Board of People for the American Way. Yet because of shortage of time they were asked to remain within a very short time limit.

Ministers Gather Around Father

Around 1:45 p.m. the last remarks were made, and the hearing was brought to a close. Many of the ministers immediately pressed to the front of the room, gathering around Father and Mother to express their thanks, respect, and admiration. More pictures were taken. Some of the media cameramen couldn't help but stay and watch what was going on, and some filmed it. Father and Mother, beaming happily, accepted all the handshakes and congratulations as they moved slowly toward the exit.

The 150 clergy who had come in support of Father from all over the country were invited to a luncheon afterwards. There, the Spirit of God literally broke out and was felt by everyone. Never before had the ministers experienced such unity and harmony with each other. Many moving testimonies and comments were given.

Later on in the evening, when Father spoke to the leaders, he said: "Our plane is on the runway now. Soon we'll take off. Yet it is up to us how high and how far we will fly." 

Table of Contents

Tparents Home

Moon Family Page

Unification Library