40 Years in America

The Watergate Crisis

President Richard Nixon talks with President Neil Salonen.

Although its Day of Hope tours were gaining momentum, the Churchís involvement in the Watergate crisis, more than any other single factor, catapulted it into the national spotlight. Previously, the movement had separated its evangelistic activities from its activity in the public arena through the separate incorporation of the Freedom Leadership Foundation. This separation broke down during the Watergate crisis. In asserting that "the crisis for America is a crisis for God," the movementís large-scale demonstrations and stance in support of President Richard Nixon, attracted national attention but also alienated it from important sectors of the American establishment.

The movement launched a forty-day National Prayer and Fast for the Watergate Crisis (NPFWC) on December 1, 1973. This action took place following a two-week break in the twenty-one-city "Day of Hope" tour, during which time Rev. Moon traveled to Japan and Korea. There, following a period of prayer and meditation, he concluded that America was in crisis and decided to speak out. The decision to launch the campaign was finalized in Omaha, Nebraska, and conducted simultaneously with the remainder of the twenty-one-city tour.

Asserting, "Godís command at this crossroads in American History is to Forgive, Love, and Unite," Rev. Moonís "Answer to Watergate" statement appeared in full-page advertisements purchased in newspapers in each of the twenty-one cities of the Day of Hope itinerary, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, beginning November 30, 1973. Over the next two months, it was published in one newspaper in every state except Hawaii. In addition, The National Prayer and Fast for the Watergate Crisis Committee (NPFWC) organized vigils, rallies, letter-writing and leafleting in all fifty states to publicize its theme and to obtain signatures of people promising to pray and fast for the Watergate crisis. At least eight senators and fifty-three congressmen either signed the statement or responded with messages of support. Congressman Guy Vander Jagt (R-Michigan) read Rev. Moonís Watergate statement into the Congressional Record of December 21, 1973.

Two annual events on the Washington, D.C. calendar were also occasions for calling national attention to the Unification Church. The first was the December 14, 1973, Christmas Tree Lighting, where the movement mobilized 1,200 pennant-waving, banner-carrying members. Not only was this rally aired on nationwide television, but later in the evening, President Nixon emerged from the White House to thank NPFWC President Neil Salonen and still assembled members for their support. The other annual event of note was the January 31, 1974, Presidential Prayer Breakfast to which Rev. Moon was invited. Although plans to ring the Washington Hilton Hotel, site of the prayer breakfast, were canceled, a post-breakfast rally at Lafayette Park brought out Edward and Tricia Nixon Cox, who greeted well-wishers. On February 1, 1974, Rev. Moon had a twenty-minute audience with President Nixon, reportedly telling him, "Donít knuckle under to pressure. Stand up for your convictions."

A second phase of the Churchís Watergate involvement came at the height of the crisis in 1974. With court-ruled limitations on executive privilege, articles of impeachment, and exposure of damaging transcripts of presidential conversations all imminent, the NPFWC mobilized 610 members for a three-day fast and vigil on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., July 22- 24, 1974. Participants wore placards with a quotation from Rev. Moonís Watergate statement on the back and a picture of the elected or appointed official for whom they were praying on the front. With public attention riveted on Watergate, the three-day vigil received national exposure. Seventy-six congressmen and five senators came out to meet the person praying for them. Newspapers across the nation carried pictures and interviews in over 350 stories. Local television stations and all three broadcasting networks showed film of the event and described it in their newscasts. Among the news magazines sending their own reporters to cover the vigil were Time, Newsweek, New Republic, U.S. News and World Report, New Yorker and the Washingtonian. Rabbi Baruch Korff, organizer of the Citizensí Committee for Fairness to the President, came to the vigil and declared "personal solidarity with these young people." Nationally syndicated columnist Art Buchwald later wrote a column featuring an imaginary conversation between one "Senator Throggsmutton" and the young man fasting for him.

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