40 Years in America

Academic and Inter-religious Outreach

The 4th ICUS in New York

Between 1977-85, the Unification movement made remarkable progress in reaching intellectual and cultural elites in American society. It also set up business and media networks that gained widespread exposure. In addition, the movement began to make inroads into the American conservative movement and New Right through its support of traditional Judeo-Christian values and opposition to communism. These advances came at a steep price. The movement expended millions of dollars, drawing on its worldwide resources, particularly from Japan. It also had to contend with continuing opposition.

Nevertheless, by 1985 the movement was in a decidedly better position than at the start of 1977. The major difference was that at the end of the period it had a broad array of supporters. These included mainstream, even stellar academics, theologians and religionists, journalists, and civic leaders. In this sense, the Washington Monument campaign was a watershed event as Rev. Moon suggested. Prior to that time, the movement had few, if any allies. Afterwards, it had an increasing number of defenders, some of whom came to its defense entirely on their own. This did not mean that the time of tribulation was over. It simply meant that after 1977 Rev. Moon and the church did not have to face it alone.

The movement did cultivate some friends before, particularly through its sponsorship of the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences (ICUS). As noted, the ICUS conferences which met each November at rotating sites grew dramatically from 20 participants from 8 nations in 1972, to 60 participants from 17 nations in 1973, to 128 participants from 28 nations in 1974, to 340 participants from 57 nations in 1975, to 360 participants from 53 nations in 1976. During these years, critics of the movement utilized a variety of tactics to dissuade participants from attending. These ranged from letter writing and telephone-calling to publicly "naming names" of those who attended.

Most of those who had participated previously or accepted invitations stood their ground. Some addressed the sponsorship issue by stating that the meetings were valuable, that they were allowed "complete freedom of expression, agenda and organization," and that "science accepts money from many sources which may be in some way tainted." Although this line of argument may have been a viable defense against conference’s detractors, it was a less than ringing endorsement of the movement.

The situation changed after 1977 in at least two ways. One of these changes was that a number of participants made a serious effort to investigate the charges against the church and its founder. Dr. Fredrick Sontag, a philosopher from Pomona College, undertook the most serious and systematic investigation. He interviewed members and movement leaders, including Rev. Moon, on three continents, stayed in church centers, attended a weekend training session as a participant, attended the Washington Monument rally as a spectator, and "contacted as many ex-members and anti-Moon organizations as possible to gather their literature." The results of his investigation were published as Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church (Abingdon, 1977). Sontag’s book was replete with typical academic disclaimers that "the Moon phenomenon does not admit of easy solutions" and that for every simple issue resolved, "more important and difficult questions emerged." Nevertheless, he did reach "two firm conclusions."

These were: "(1) The origins of the movement are genuinely humble, religious, and spiritual (which many doubt); and (2) the adaptability and solidarity of the movement are such that we are dealing with a movement here to stay." As he put it, "We have witnessed in our own lifetime the birth, growing pains -- and will see the maturity -- of a new religious movement." Although the debate over "science, sin and sponsorship" continued, it no longer threatened the existence of ICUS, which continued to expand through 1981 when 808 participants from 100 nations gathered for the tenth conference in Seoul, Korea.

A second change was the emergence of a new synergy. The power of academic networking was such that participants not only brought colleagues but also fresh ideas. The Professors World Peace Academy (PWPA), which was founded by Rev. Moon in 1973 but which operated almost exclusively in Asia, increasingly drew on ICUS-related scholars in setting up chapters and sponsoring conferences worldwide after 1981. The movement organized Paragon House Publishers (PHP) in 1982 largely as an outlet for ICUS and PWPA related scholars, and in 1983 it incorporated the Washington Institute for Values in Public Policy as "an independent, nonprofit research and educational organization" providing "nonpartisan analysis exploring the ethical values underlying public policy issues." Building on this interest, the movement sponsored 40 "Introductory Seminars on the Unification Movement" (ISUMs) which reached more than 2,100 university scholars, professionals and government officials responsible for higher education from over 70 countries.

The movement followed a similar process in its ecumenical and interfaith relations. If ICUS was the base upon which the movement connected its value perspective to the sciences, Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) was the engine that powered its ecumenical outreach between 1977-85. Established in 1975 with the purpose of promoting "interfaith, interracial and international unity," the Seminary installed an original faculty consisting of a Dutch Reformed professor of Biblical Studies, a Harvard and University of Tuebingen educated Church of Christ professor of Church History, a Jesuit professor of Philosophy, a Roman Catholic professor of Psychology and Religious Education, and a Unification professor of Systematic Theology and World Religions. The Seminary added an orthodox Jewish rabbi as professor of Biblical Literature and Judaic Studies, a Greek Orthodox professor of Church History, and a Confucianist professor of Oriental Philosophy the following year, making it undoubtedly the most religiously diverse seminary in America, at least in terms of its faculty.

As with its outreach to the scientific community, the movement faced opposition in its ecumenical work. The most serious and ongoing problem was the New York State Board of Regents’ refusal to approve the Seminary’s charter application. Despite receiving charter recommendations from two teams of consultants, State Board of Education staff members, and the State Commissioner of Education, the New York State Board of Regents delayed action on the UTS provisional charter application for thirty-four months, tabling a decision six times. On one of those occasions, a Regents’ "committee on UTS" raised "no questions about the adequacy of the program" but repeated allegations about "brainwashing, alleged deceptive practices of the Church, [and] alleged liaisons with the Korean government or K.C.I.A." When these were not substantiated, the Regents denied the application in February 1978 on the basis of an unannounced site visit that turned up "inconsistencies in admission standards" and misrepresentations in the catalog and a brochure. The Seminary pointed out that three previous review teams had examined and approved the admissions system and that SED staff had previously seen both the catalog and brochure without charging any misrepresentation. Nevertheless, UTS was denied its charter and forced to function without state authorization to offer courses for credit, to grant degrees, or to issue student visas.

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