The Words of the Marshall Family

The Story Behind London's Largest Libel Case - Moonies Versus The Daily Mail

Mike Marshall
July 1981

Dennis Orme, president of the Unification Church in
Britain (left) and Mike Marshall at a press conference
following the verdict in the six-month libel suit against
the London Daily Mail.

A young English woman, Judy Salter, joined our church during her vacation to California. Upon learning of it, her parents contacted the London Daily Mail, which paid for Mrs. Salter's trip to the United States to "rescue" her daughter.

"This goes on all the time in the battle for circulation," said a spokesman from the Institute of Journalists in London. "The quickest way to get information is to pay for it."

The tabloid-sized Daily Mail reaped several sensational stories from its investment and increased its circulation by 13,000. It used the resulting polarization within the Salter family to boast of its "pro-family stance" to its reading public. "The most successful campaign recently has been the Moonies," an editorial spokesman from the Daily Mail told a reporter recently.

Our church in England sued that paper for libel, and the case lasted six months, the longest libel case in British legal history. The decision in favor of the Daily Mail was announced on March 3, and Dennis Orme, who initiated the suit on behalf of the church, was ordered to pay court costs, which exceeded $1 million. The decision is being appealed.

Mike Marshall, a member of our British family, sat through and testified in the case. Although the church lost the case, Marshall reveals, in the evidence and in the way the case was conducted, a story different from the final verdict. The following account is reprinted from the News World.

Court 36 was packed and hushed and expectant. The lunch hour had just finished and the word had buzzed round the court precincts that the jury was returning. This was the prelude to the end of Orme vs. Associated Newspapers, better known as the Moonies versus the Daily Mail, a case which set a number of records.

It was the longest libel action in British legal history, taking over 100 court days spread over six months. Dennis Orme, president of the Unification Church in Britain, had been ordered to pay into court a record sum of $512,000 as security in case the Daily Mail should win and he had to pay the costs. The judge, Justice Comyn, had remarked it was one of the bitterest legal battles he had ever presided over, though even bitter battles in British courts seem to be conducted with a great deal of courtesy and dignity, punctuated by bursts of humor.

The jury filed in, tight-lipped and serious. Six months, 117 witnesses, wheelbarrow loads of documents and hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of words of evidence, would now all be resolved in a few words.

"Does the article complained of refer to the plaintiff?"

"We find that the article does refer to the plaintiff: intoned the foreman of the jury.

This was a technical legal point which arose because the article did not mention Orme by name.

"Do you find for the plaintiff or for the defendant?" "For the defendant."

Another story

With those three words the case ended. The Daily Mail had won, end of story. But for the Moonies it is not the end, just a new beginning. Behind those three words there is another story, in the evidence and in the way the case was conducted, not known except by those who sat through the whole case.

It might begin with the two riders that the jury added to their verdict. The first recommended that the Inland Revenue investigate the tax-free status of the Unification Church on the grounds that it is a political organization.

In the second, the jury said that whatever the result of their verdict, they wanted to express their compassion for the idealistic young people in the church. When this was announced to a meeting of members at the Unification Church's Lancaster Gate Headquarters, a ripple of anger ran through the room. They clearly felt that the jury's concern was misplaced, that they knew what they were doing with their lives, were devoted to it and did not need patronizing.

As for the first rider, this was quite a surprise. The Unification Church works in Britain through two registered charities, the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity and the Sun Myung Moon Foundation, and through various businesses that donate their profits to the two charities. Throughout the case there had been no evidence whatsoever that either of these bodies had done anything political. Where then had this rider come from?

Long court cases, especially involving new religions, are not simply a matter of a reasoned review of the facts. Emotions, prejudice, pleading and downright confusion all enter in. With so many witnesses, it is easy to forget what they said, particularly if it is several months since you heard them. It is easy to confuse fact and speculation.

To add to that, the Daily Mail fought a no-holds-barred battle that even the judge remarked on at times. Lord Rawlinson, the Daily Mail's counsel, ridiculed the beliefs of Orme and his church, the judge said. The tactic seemed to be to throw as much mud as possible, whether there were grounds for it of not, in the hope that enough stuck. Obviously it worked.

Common sense denied

For example, the Unification Church was accused of never doing anything for other charities. There is no particular reason why it should, of course, as it is a charity in its own right. But in fact, members have raised money for a number of charities around the country.

Evidence was produced, asked for by Lord Rawlinson. Lord Rawlinson promptly suggested it was all a public image exercise. If it was, why did it only come out when he challenged the point? Why was it not put forward as part of Orme's case?

Common sense, however, was not to be allowed to shed light on the scene. Moonies never do anything for other people, was another accusation in the same vein.

Most church members in Britain do what is called "home church" work, where they take a little "parish" and serve the people in it. Evidence was produced of this, particularly of help given to old people living alone.

Lord Rawlinson for the Daily Mail suggested this was just to get the old people to join the church and leave their money to it. The fact that many of these old people are poor, as well as lonely, the fact that not one case was produced where such a person has left money to the church were all irrelevant.

The Unification Church could do no right, as far as the Daily Mail was concerned. They obviously thought that old people should stay lonely rather than take comfort from a Moonie.

On the religious side, as far as the Daily Mail was concerned, the Unification Church was no religion at all. The word "mumbo jumbo" was used frequently to refer to its teaching, the Divine Principle, revealed by the founder Reverend Moon. One witness who was as theologically illiterate (this is not meant to be offensive -- most of us are theologically illiterate), proclaimed that, in his view, the Divine Principle was claptrap. The phrase was warmly received and frequently repeated by Lord Rawlinson.

Paradoxically, the weekend after the case finished, I attended a theological conference at which a distinguished scholar, who had devoted a lifetime to the study of religions, said he found in the Divine Principle a consistent view of reality of remarkable clarity and originality. He described it as an optimistic and life-affirming creed, because at the heart of reality there was love.

No such considerations were allowed to cloud the picture of the Daily Mail. They explained through Lord Rawlinson that Reverend Moon was a successful South Korean businessman who had turned to dabbling in theology and brought out certain ideas "which once he may have believed sincerely" but now used to inveigle unsuspecting (though often highly educated) Western young people into working to promote his financial and political goals, while thinking they were following a religion.

"How could they be so stupid?" you may ask.

"They have been brainwashed," asserts the Daily Mail confidently.

"What? Locked up, threatened, terrorized?" you ask incredulously.

"Far worse than that," says a shocked Daily Mail.

"The Church was kind to them, showed them love and concern." And they produced the witnesses to prove it, uncovering the depth of evil at the heart of the Moonie organization -- that people were taught to love one another.

Mail's theory ignores facts

What is more, the Daily .Mail's theory about Reverend Moon does not fit the facts. It may not be an intentional lie. It is certainly a culpable lie, since Lord Rawlinson was not in the least interested in having his picture corrected.

I explained in evidence that Reverend Moon was not a businessman turned to religion, but in 1945 had journeyed without a penny in his pocket to preach in communist-controlled North Korea. I told how he was arrested by the communists and spent two and a half years in a labor camp, how he was liberated during the Korean War and journeyed south, 600 miles on foot to Pusan, where he built his first church of stones, mud and army-surplus cardboard boxes. That was the start of Reverend Moon's religion.

"We are not interested in that," interrupted Lard Rawlinson.

One may ask, how could Reverend Moon be so diabolically clever as to make up a religion to advance his business aims? Why did no one think of it before?

The amazing thing is, however, that Reverend Moon apparently did not do a very good job on the religion side since the Daily Mail regards it all as mumbo jumbo. Yet so cunning is Reverend Moon (probably as a result of being an inscrutable) that he manages to convince intelligent young Westerners whose language he does not speak to believe in all this "claptrap."

"This proves they must be brainwashed," trumpets the Daily Mail. New beliefs seem strange, even crazy, so how could anyone believe them unless they have had their minds interfered with?

The early Christians had the same problem. Paul admitted his beliefs were mumbo jumbo as well to most of his contemporaries. Faith in the resurrected Jesus was a "scandal to the Jews and folly to the Greeks," and if he had lived today he would have, been written off as brainwashed.

The case was conducted with a web of unreality being persuasively spun. In the religious sphere Lord Rawlinson would take a saying or action of Reverend Moon and compare it with his idea of Jesus. "Not like the humble carpenter from Nazareth, is it?" was his typical comment, as if Jesus had been generally acclaimed as a "good chap" by his contemporaries.

That is not the picture painted by the Gospels. For many people Jesus' words were a profoundly disturbing challenge to the assumptions and structures of their normal life. What, one wonders, would the Daily Mail have made of remarks like this: "I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household." (Matt. 10:34-6) What could contemporaries have made of this? An incitement to violence? The break-up of the family? How would the Daily Mail have reported it?

Zombies at seminary?

What is more amazing, though, is that having brainwashed all these young people, Reverend Moon sends lots of them to study at the Unification Theological Seminary. Reverend Moon set up the seminary and the Unification Church has poured into it a great deal of that money which you are told is going to Reverend Moon's personal enrichment. Here, no doubt, you would expect the brainwashing to be completed by hard-core Moonie lecturers. That would be to underestimate the subtlety of Reverend Moon's devious schemes. Most of the lecturers are not from the Unification Church. They are from other churches. They not only teach these brainwashed, glassy-eyed zombies (yes, that is how the Daily Mail described Unification Church members), they find them impressive and send many of them on to graduate studies at famous theological colleges where they both get degrees and keep their Moonie faith.

More amazing still, the seminary has sponsored some scores of theological conferences over the past four or five years. Hundreds of scholars from other churches have attended, many regularly. Most of them do not agree with the Divine Principle, but they find it a serious, coherent theology, worthy of deep study.

Yet the Daily Mail staunchly maintains it is all a bogus religion, produced by Reverend Moon to further his other interests.

They said he was after political power, he was a demagogue. Did they ever think, I wonder, that Jesus was not crucified for being a religious teacher? He was accused of being a political subversive aspiring to usurp power. "And over his head they put the charge against him which read, 'This is Jesus, the King of the Jews...'" (Matt. 27:37)

Reliance on 'deprogrammers'

The core of the Daily Mail's case against the Moonies relied on people called "deprogrammers" and the arguments they use. The Mail called 44 witnesses. Twenty-eight were from North America, of whom 16 were connected with "deprogramming" in one way or another.

In a free country, parents cannot complain to the police that their adult sons and daughters have joined the Moonies and should be taken into protective custody. So parents take their complaints to deprogrammers, who have extensive publicity and referral networks, as some of them admitted under cross-examination, to make sure the parents' business is channeled to them. They then place the son or daughter under "protective arrest." In other words, they kidnap and abduct them. The court heard evidence of people being jumped on in the street by heavies, bundled into cars, sometimes handcuffed, and then driven off and held prisoner in a room somewhere, sometimes for days at a time.

"Being surprised off the street," Lord Rawlinson engagingly called it. Once held captive, the person is harangued until he either escapes or agrees to abandon his faith. The process is called "deprogramming" by its practitioners, because they tell the parents that their son or daughter has been "programmed" into the faith they have joined. If adult conversion is "programming" I wonder what they would call the 13 years I spent at a Catholic school?

Mrs. Eileen Barker, a sociologist from the London School of Economics, gave evidence from her studies that 50 percent of the people who join the Unification Church in Britain leave, freely -- no kidnapping -- within two years.

Thousands have done the same in America, but the deprogrammers don't let on about that fact; otherwise they might not have so many customers. Those who left freely were conspicuous by the small role they played in the Mail's case. Their stories were not extreme enough to support the Mail's case; not as extreme as those of the deprogrammers who have an interest in extreme stories, since they help to convince parents of the need for their services.

At times Lord Rawlinson's justifications made deprogramming sound like one of the corporal works of mercy. Deprogrammers only acted at the parents' request, he said, as if this showed how responsible they were. Of course they only act at the parents' request. The parents are their protection. If the police become involved they are told that it is a family matter; the deprogrammers were just "invited in."

The parents also represent the deprogrammers' pay check. The Mail may accuse the Moonies of doing nothing for anyone else, but their key witnesses were certainly dispensing no charity. One young deprogrammer was asked by the judge why he charged a fee. "I have to live," was his reply. Couldn't he have gotten a respectable job?


The myth-making went on in various spheres. Often it was subtle and unspoken, but a picture was suggested of a "normal" world -- which actually does not exist -- populated by happy families where children all have a close understanding with their parents, where they get educated and embark on accepted careers with no questions about what it is all for, about where they and the society they live in are going ultimately. Into this idyllic world burst the Moonies disturbing the peace and destroying all this previously unruffled happiness.

What is surprising is that thinking people should be expected to be content with a good education and a good career, as if that were all life was about. What is unusual, especially in a troubled world, is that creative and independent young people should be expected to be content with what their parent's desire for them, instead of exploring new possibilities.

It is all too easy, however, for a "crusading" newspaper to blame all sorts of evils on the Moonies and not recognize that they are offering and giving solutions to the evils that are already there around us in the heart of a sickening society, but which are uncomfortable to notice. To do this is to call the medicine wicked because it tastes strange and to ignore the patient dying of disease.

What do they think about the acceptable, institutionalized break-up of families that our society has decided to live with and treat as normal? There is one divorce for every three marriages today in England and Wales -- a rate of about 144,000 a year. There are about one million children of divorced parents. These are real "children," under the age of 16 -- not 25-year-old university graduates -- and there are a million of them, not a few hundred.

The price paid in suffering by all these children has only recently begun to be recognized. In Surveying the Breakup, two American social psychologists declare that one in three children who have lived through a marriage break-up, even a "civilized" and amicable one, have strong feelings of unhappiness, anger and rejection as long as five years later. These children then figure high among the numbers of juvenile delinquents and teenage suicides and are far more likely to have their own marriages break up. That, though, is a price which the establishment seems ready to tolerate.

Doesn't anybody ask where are values being generated and taught that will help more people to have a vision of marriage that goes beyond individual gratification, and to make their marriages work? The Moonies have a teaching on marriage that gives life to these values. It was roundly mocked by Lord Rawlinson in the court.

It appears that the Moonies are to be kicked -- to death if possible -- because they present a possible solution to many current problems. Such solutions are very disturbing if you are determined not to face up to the problem in the first place.

In his closing speech Lord Rawlinson invited the jury to save this country from going the way of the United States of America with "this great social evil" (meaning the Moonies). As he and David English, the editor of the Daily Mail, survey the devastation of Brixton (scene of recent race riots) in their newspapers, I wonder if it crosses their minds that they may have been trying to stop the wrong social evil infecting Britain from the States.

It is a form of moral sickness to run an indignant crusade against a scapegoat group like the Moonies, kidding yourself they are a terrible social evil, when you are surrounded by real social evils -- children of divorce -- or Brixton -- before which you are complacent or powerless.

In a quiet way the Moonies are a radical challenge to an established society that does not want to look too closely at its sores. It was the same story 2,000 years ago. The essence of Jesus' message to his hearers was that they should look into their own hearts. That was his criticism against the Pharisees. His words cut them to the core of their being. That was why they thought him evil, of the devil, a threat to their way of life.

That was why he was crucified.

Recent Legal Developments

Successful Opposition to Conservatorship Bills

A man named Saul claimed he was walking down the road toward Damascus when he was blinded by a bright light and heard the voice of God. He has now changed his name to Paul and is active in the cult of an obscure Jew called Jesus of Nazareth.

"The authorities have determined that the judgment of this Saul or Paul has become impaired. He has undergone a radical change. It appears obvious that some kind of deception has been employed to convert this man from a persecutor of Christians to a vocal advocate of their cause."

"The authorities have therefore kidnapped Paul from his group (as they are entitled to do under the law) and the temporary conservator is now having him deprogrammed."

Such is what might have happened 2,000 years ago had there been a law in existence such as the Lasher bill being considered by the New York state legislature. Similar bills, designed to unleash deprogrammers on adult members of "cults" and, in effect, any religious group, were soundly defeated recently by the legislatures in Connecticut and Texas. A comparable bill is also before the Oregon legislature, but its fate has not yet been decided.

A very broad and what many people felt was a heartening coalition of most of the major religious denominations has opposed these bills, feeling that they represent a major threat to the religious liberty of all Americans. The efforts of these diverse groups brought about the defeat of the bills in Connecticut and Texas.

The Lasher bill, a proposed amendment to the mental health laws of New York State, has as its stated objective to:

"Establish a procedure for the appointment of one or more temporary guardians of any person, 16 years of age or older who has undergone a sudden or dramatic personality change demonstrated by specific and identifiable psychological and physical characteristics, when such personality change is a result of the person's having undergone a systematic and sophisticated program of indoctrinational thought reform practiced by a group, and that group has misrepresented either its true identity or the activities its recruits will participate in or be subjected to."

The bill would give deprogrammers a free hand for 45 days to try to change the suspect's beliefs.

Last year, an almost identical bill was vetoed by the governor of New York, who recognized that any legislation restricting freedom of religion, regardless of how popular or unpopular the religion might be, was unconstitutional.

This year, a very broad spectrum of groups has circulated statements of opposition to the proposed New York law. The opposition includes Jews, Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, African Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist, National Council of Churches, New York Civil Liberties Union, NAACP and the New York Office of Mental Health.

Evidence of incompetence?

The list of "sudden and dramatic personality changes" which under the proposed law would justify the appointment of a temporary guardian has six categories: (1) Abrupt and drastic alteration of basic values and lifestyle; (2) lack of appropriate emotional responses; (3) regression to child-like behavior; (4) physical changes, such as weight, hair, perspiration and a wooden mask-like expression; (5) reduction of capacity to make decisions; and (6) psychopathological changes.

The legislation would allow the state to appoint "conservators" to take physical custody of adults who have converted to, or otherwise joined, various religions and require them to suffer "medical attention for the proposed temporary conservatee as is necessary"

In effect, under the proposed law, people who become members of new religions (or any religion, for that matter) would be subject to legal kidnapping, incarceration and subjected to coercion for up to 45 day to recant his or her faith.

One of the criteria for determining the alleged incompetence of the proposed conservatee is that person's belief that he does not need such care. Dr. Herbert Richardson, theologian from the University of Toronto, concludes from the provisions of this bill that "if a person should argue that he or she is healthy, reasonable and voluntarily choosing to belong to a particular religion, this would constitute evidence that that person must be given medical treatment to 'cure' this disease."

"The American press has promoted anti-cultism just as the German papers once promoted the anti-Semitic frame of mind," Dr. Richardson writes in his new book, New Religions and Mental Health (Edwin Mellen Press). 'Once these anti-religious feelings have been created, there can be a public pressure to pass laws against cultists and laws against Jews."

Dr. Richardson and many other experts on religion have studied the "deprogramming" business in the United States and elsewhere. They have found that deprogramming is a misnomer, for it assumes that any convert to a new religion has been "programmed." Deprogramming is a lucrative, underground business operating in the shadow of the law by feeding off fear and intolerance of anything new or unpopular.

Abuse of psychiatry

"The general charge is that religious conversion, or even first-time adherence to certain religions, is prima facie evidence of mental illness," Richardson writes.

'A small group of psychiatrists has chosen to play the role of 'expert witness' in testifying in courts and to legislators that religious conversion, or certain forms of religious belief, is evidence of incompetence. "They believe that persons who hold such belief or who join certain religions should be required to undergo involuntary treatment at their hands for the cure of certain 'illness.' "

The proposed law would allow a parent, legal guardian, spouse, adult child, grandparent or adult sibling of the suspect to petition a district or county court for the appointment of a temporary guardian. The petition need not allege many of the suspicious personality changes in order for it to be approved, and further, any evidence including hearsay would be admissible. If a temporary guardianship is issued, the law would protect the perpetrators of the "treatment" from any suits for unlawful detention, assault, trespass or invasion of civil rights.

If the psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers whom the proposed law allows to certify a person as incompetent and draw up a plan for his "cure" were honorable people, the consequences might not be so bad. However, Jeremiah Gutman, a constitutional attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, states that "routinely the person who files the conservatorship has never even seen the person. This is a violation of their rights."

In January, 1980, for example, a psychiatrist certified a person whom he had never examined as mentally incompetent, based on nothing more than a conversation he witnessed from across the room. His victim was forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital and was kept there for two weeks, during which time the doctors concluded he was not mentally incompetent.

Vaguely defined techniques

The proposed law focuses on groups who practice the following techniques: (1) isolation from family and friends; (2) control over information; (3) physical debilitation through such means as sleep deprivation, inadequate diet, unreasonably long work hours, improper or lack of medical care; (4) reduction of capacity to make decisions through performing repetitious tasks, lack of physical and mental privacy and intense peer pressure.

This bill sets forth unconstitutionally vague standards in such areas as food deprivation (what about vegetarians, weight watchers, Moslems, or Orthodox Jews?), sleep deprivation (what about guided tour groups, the military, or even graduate schools?), and long work hours and family contact restrictions (what about businesses, military, or even the Peace Corps?)

Should legislation be passed restricting new religions, Richardson notes, "once the law is there, we cannot decide to apply it to some groups and not to others. If it is to be illegal for the Unification Church to have strict rules for their religious novices, then it will be illegal for Catholics, too."

Constitutional violations

A statement by the Committee Against Racial and Religious Intolerance (CARRI) lists the following gross violations of basic constitutional principles found in the bill:

1. Religious freedom and church-state separation.

2. Freedom of association.

3. Protection from loss of a person's liberty or property without due process, and in the absence of evidence that the person presents a risk to the life and safety of himself and/or others.

In addition, the bill condones the use of deprogramming and other unregulated psychological and/or medical "treatments" which are believed by many experts to be in and of themselves a serious threat to the individuals' health and safety.

The CARRI statement concludes that any religious conversion implies change in lifestyle. To make a judgment of the validity of such a change is an unwarranted involvement of the state in religious affairs. The state does not have the capability to make judgment on the validity of such conversion experiences. Such a law in the hands of an ill-meaning person or group could threaten the freedom of anyone who may not agree with the popular opinion about religion, diet, politics, the nature of life, or the nature of the hereafter. 

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