The Words of the Downward Family
Thousands gather In Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan to listen to speakers on the religious liberty issue, August 28, 1984.
About 4,000 demonstrators from a wide variety of faiths gathered at Battery Park in Lower Manhattan on Aug. 28 to protest the jailings of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and the Rev. Everett Sileven of Nebraska.
The rally -- which featured jazz great Dizzy Gillespie; the Rev. Joseph Lowery, leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; the Rev. Greg Dixon, president of the American Coalition of Unregistered Churches; and In Jin Moon, Father's second daughter (19- year-old)--was organized by several groups concerned with religious freedom that have sponsored similar events throughout the country.
Rev. Lowery said it is easy to persecute "that which is unpopular." He cited the imprisonment of Father and Rev. Sileven as examples.
Sileven was imprisoned because the state of Nebraska refused to accept his contention that his Baptist Church School was exempt from state teacher- certification rules. Rev. Moon currently is serving an 18-month prison sentence for evading taxes on funds he continues to insist belonged to his church and were therefore non-taxable.
"Make no mistake about it," Lowery said. "Sun Myung Moon is in jail because he was unpopular, not because he was unfaithful."
Lowery told reporters that the IRS never was given authority "to decide what is a bona fide church." He also said it was "very unfortunate that the Supreme Court chickened out" by refusing to hear Rev. Moon's appeal.
In Jin Moon told the crowd that the day her father entered prison on July 20 seemed "as if the end of the world had come to my family."
"I never imagined in a million years this would happen to my father, particularly in America," Miss Moon said. "The nation my father so dearly loves has imprisoned him."
She said, "God needs America to save the world," and urged the protesters to "turn our anger and grief into powerful action to make this country free again."
Popular New York City radio talk-show host Barry Farber, who served as master of ceremonies, told the protesters he had received criticism from some for attending a rally organized by a "Moonie front group."
"I've got news for you," Farber said. "This is not a Moonie front. This is God's front."
Farber, a Jew, said the "rainbow coalition" was a political term made popular recently by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, but that standing before him in the rally he saw a number of Protestant denominations, some Catholic friends and Muslim representatives.
"This is God's rainbow coalition," he said.
Rev. Dixon said he saw parallels between the treatment of Rev. Moon and Rev. Sileven and persecution of Christians in the USSR.
"When you read the transcripts of the Rev. Sileven case and the Rev. Moon case, it sounds like what's happening in the Soviet Union," he said.
"Rev. Moon had a mock trial and so did Rev. Sileven. But so did Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago," he said. "We must have no more mock trials in America."
Rally organizers said the series of nationwide rallies is "just the beginning" and that the religious-freedom movement was growing in strength "every day." Rev. Lowery announced plans to mail information on their goals to more than "300,000 priests, rabbis and pastors throughout the United States.'"