The Words of the Stallings Family
Letters to the Editor, New York Daily News
G. Augustus Stallings
September 17, 2002
New York, NY
To the Editors,
Fernanda Santos' story on the recent "Stand for Family, Save the Nation" Interreligious and International Blessing and Rededication Ceremony ["500 Followers of Moon Rise and Shout, `We Do,'" Sept. 15, 2002], correctly captured the spirit of reconciliation that characterized the event, which had people of different faiths marrying or rededicating their vows marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Several grievous errors of fact, however, present a distorted impression of what actually took place.
Less than 100 of the nearly 800 couples that were counted at the event were followers of Reverend Moon. I am sure that the Moslem, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Native American, and Christian couples of differing denominations do not wish to be incorrectly labeled as "moonies." Only a handful of couples (less than 20) were newly married, and many of these knew each other for some time prior to making this commitment. The rest were couples rededicating their vows, to make a statement in answer to terrorism: religious harmony and the universal value of strong, loving families. This was not a "mass marriage," as your article asserted. It was an interfaith affirmation of the importance of families as a basis for world peace (exactly as it was billed).
The term "moonie" is offensive to Unificationists (and non-Unificationists like myself) and its use in your story was inappropriate. The New York City Commission on Human Rights calls it a "pejorative term that evokes intolerance and hatred for the Unification Church and its beliefs." The New York Times and New York Post have both joined media such as the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today and Reuters in a commitment to never use the term. I pray that your paper will consider how the thoughtless use of a demeaning pejorative has unjustly mischaracterized a noble and peaceful event and the good people of many faiths who participated in it.
Archbishop G. Augustus Stallings
Chairman of the Executive Committee
American Clergy Leadership Conference
(Please read and consider to determine the veracity and credibility of the above letter)
1. The American Clergy Leadership Conference, of which the letter's signer is Chairman of the Executive Committee, was a co-sponsor of the September 14th Event in Question. While founded by Rev. Moon, the ACLC's nationwide membership is almost completely non-Unificationist. ACLC pastors commonly preside over marriage blessing and rededication ceremonies for their congregations in their own churches, and the ACLC has sponsored large interfaith ceremonies twice this year already. See www.wewillstand.org, www.aclc.info or www.standforfamily.org for further information.
2. For faxed or mailed copies of letters and/or statements regarding the term "moonie" from the NY City Commission on Human Rights, NY Times, NY Post, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Reuters, or others, please contact Rev. Phillip Schanker email@example.com.
3. The Manhattan Center auditorium where the Sept. 14th event was held was set for 1500 for the event. Your reporter, Ms. Santos, was present as we added an additional 200 chairs, and still had to ask observers to stand in order to accommodate the overflow of interfaith couples at the event. Ms. Santos, who was certainly pleasant and professional, seems to have ignored the press release information, and assumed that those couples not marrying for the first time were mostly guests or observers. In fact, almost everyone present was participating in the rededication event as a married couple. All participants wore white sashes. A close look at the photos taken by your photographer will reveal the large number and great diversity of participants at the event. While the simple sign-in procedure was overwhelmed by the large crowd that day, we will happily provide the names of many more than the 500 "followers of Moon" that your article incorrectly described.
4. The attempt to characterize a diverse group of people from established faiths as "moonies," is a serious issue of religious discrimination and "profiling." Respected leaders of New York's diverse religious community such as Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, pastor of Harlem's Canaan Baptist Church, Imam Omar S. Abu-Namous, head of the Islamic Cultural Center of NY, and Bishop Cecil Riley of Brooklyn's Freedom Hall Church of God, were among the speakers and participants that day.
We seriously demand both a public response in the form of printing the above letter, and a meeting between your editors and a committee of interfaith pastors regarding the "moonie" issue, so you may understand both our diversity and our determination.
Please respond to Reverend Phillip Schanker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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