WorldTies: Rev. Sun Myung Moon: Love Affairs with Bush's Buddies
- This article about Rev. Moon appeared in the publication Gay Today on Wednesday 23 March 2005. Satan is testifying to God's work.
Vol. VIII Issue 167 Wednesday, March 23, 2005 People Rev. Sun Myung Moon: Love Affairs with Bush's BuddiesBy Bill Berkowitz Every week, Andrew Sullivan, the neo-conservative GOP-friendly gay pundit, writes an opinion piece for the Washington Times. Sullivan may or may not be aware that the newspaper's owner, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, in a 1997 speech titled the "Reverend Moon Speaks on Restoration of True Sonship" said "The Mafia tried to destroy Father [Rev. Moon], but they have not succeeded. All those gays and lesbians will eventually realize that they need families also. They will probably be at the end of the line following Father in the future."
For more than two decades the Rev. Moon has been a powerful and influential political figure, despite being more than a bit out of step with mainstream America. Now, perhaps thinking of his own mortality, he has become more visible, staging and sponsoring numerous events and conferences. A revivified Rev. Sun Myung Moon is planting the seeds of his political legacy -- and he's getting help from his friends in the Bush Administration.
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times newspaper has been quite favorable to the Bush administration
On December 19, 2002, while many Americans were caught up in Trent Lott's troubles or trying to figure out what to get their mother-in-law for Christmas, the Corporation for National and Community Service announced the appointment of three managers to oversee AmeriCorps. David Caprara, the newly appointed director of AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), comes to government service from having served as president of the American Family Coalition, an organization many observers say is a "front" organization for the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
Caprara's appointment is the latest in a series of events signifying a close relationship between the Bush Administration and the Rev. Moon's Unification Church.
On January 19, 2001, one day before George W. Bush was sworn in as President, the Rev. Moon sponsored a prayer luncheon that brought together some 1,700 religious, civic, and political leaders. In the crowd was a bevy of Christian Right luminaries including the Rev. Jerry Falwell, former National Evangelical Association President Don Argue, Trinity Broadcasting Network's Paul Crouch and the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) president, executive committee president and CEO, as well as Richard Land, the president of SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
John Ashcroft cozied up to Moon John Ashcroft, who had not yet been confirmed as Attorney General, dropped by and "brought down the house with a tale of amazing grace," reported a front-page story in the Washington Times. The Rev. Moon addressed the crowd and handed out free copies of one of his books and other Unification church materials.
When SBC leaders discovered that the event had been sponsored by the Rev. Moon's Washington Times they were surprised: "We knew that it was going to be an interdenominational event, but we had no idea that the luncheon was hosted by the Moonies," claimed one SBC spokesperson.
A few months later, the American Leadership Conference (ALC), a project of the American Family Coalition and The Washington Times Foundation - both Moon-sponsored groups - sent thousands of invitations to clergy and community leaders inviting them to attend local events called "Faith-Based Initiatives For Family and Community Renewal." According to Church & State's Rob Boston, "The flyer promised that the 'cutting edge program' would 'provide the latest information on innovative policies and programs from the Executive and Congressional leadership in Washington; and build alliances for faith-based services at the state and community level.'"
Boston, assistant director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, pointed out the "faith-based summit" was actually held in Washington, D.C. and down-linked by satellite to more than forty participating sites. The summit was organized by a number of leading GOP congressional figures including Bush's faith-based point-men, now former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). And, "efforts to promote it at the grassroots level were turned over to a Moon organization," which Boston writes, gave them "an official relationship with the Republican leadership" and this "enhanced status enabled him to do grassroots political organizing - and religious recruitment - with the apparent blessing of Bush and his GOP allies in Congress."
On May 21, 2002, the Rev. Moon hosted a gala 20th anniversary celebration for the Washington Times - the Moon-owned conservative newspaper that has lost money every year since its launch in 1982 - at the Washington Hilton Hotel. The Washington Times reported the following day that "more than 3,000 congressmen, state legislators and business and religious leaders from across the country" attended and heard country music singer Randy Travis and radio talk show host Laura Schlessinger, who delivered the keynote address. One of the highlights of the evening was the reading of a congratulatory message from President Bush, who called the Times "a distinguished source of information and opinion" and "a forum for the debate of timely issues."
The SBC's antipathy over the Rev. Moon's sponsorship of the prayer event and the Republican Party's dependence on its organizing skills are indicative of the longtime love/hate relationship Christian evangelicals and GOP operatives have had with the Unification Church. (Boston recently told me that the "baggage associated with the Unification Church has created problems for the church over time, so they formed the more family-friendly-sounding Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.")
Money makes the world go round
"What I find interesting about the whole Moon phenomena is what money can do for you," says Rob Boston. For more than two decades, Moon's Christian Right partners have accepted his bountiful financial support: Not too long ago, the Rev. Jerry Falwell's financially-distressed Liberty University received a gift of $3.5 million. Christian Right leaders eagerly accept lucrative speaking engagements and attractive travel packages to Moon-sponsored events and conferences.
And the GOP adores that the Washington Times which serves as a daily boom-box for the right's political and social agenda.
The Rev. Jerry Falwell accepted $3.5 million from Moon to keep his Liberty University running
There is however, the embarrassing side of the coin: The loopy mass wedding ceremonies the Rev. Moon presides over; his financial sponsorship of the Nation of Islam's Million Family March; the bad publicity garnered by the Rev.'s dysfunctional family; and the reports of teenagers enticed into joining the church and subsequently kept away from their families. And Christian right leaders are more than uncomfortable when the Rev. claims to consider himself the new Messiah, sent by God to complete the failed mission of Jesus. Dr. Massimo Introvigne, the director of the Center for the Studies of New Religions in Torino, Italy, who has tracked the Rev. Moon's international activities, told Church & State that "There is no doubt that Moon and his followers believe that he IS the Lord of the Second Advent, i.e. a Messianic figure complementary to Jesus Christ."
According to Rob Boston, "Moon has made numerous statements over the years implying that he is something more than a mere mortal. A passage on Moon's official website (www.unification.net) states the matter plainly: 'The Christian world must confront the fact that the Messiah's second advent took place at the end of World War II, in an obscure setting,' it reads. 'As did Jesus, he met with countless difficulties, including accusation and rejection. Bearing every cross, he - the Reverend Sun Myung Moon - took responsibility for the failure of this generation of Christians, and he stands today as the historical victor with a worldwide following.'"
The Rev. Moon has been a consistent friend and supporter of the Bush family. During his run for the presidency, George the elder enjoyed unequivocal support from the paper. And according to veteran reporter Robert Parry, after he left office "Moon-affiliated organizations paid for speeches by former President Bush in the United States, Asia and South America The price tag for the speeches has been estimated at from hundreds of thousands of dollars to $10 million." During the 2000 presidential campaign the Washington Times threw its whole-hearted support behind George W. Bush and over the course of the past two years has consistently supported the president's agenda.
No mention of David Caprara's connection to Rev. Moon-controlled organizations was made in the News Release announcing his appointment as director of VISTA. According to its Web site, the American Family Coalition (AFC) "is a national non-profit grassroots leadership alliance promoting family and community renewal through educational and faith-based initiatives. The efforts of AFC are made possible through the generous support of The Washington Times Foundation and other individual and corporate donors."
In October, the AFC sponsored a seminar called "Relationship Intelligence: Teaching Our Children in the Age of AIDS." The Presenter was Richard Panzer, the founder of Free Teens USA, a Moon front group that has insinuated its abstinence-only sex education curriculum into a number of school districts.
In an AmeriCorps news release Director Rosie Mauk noted that she and Leslie Lenkowsky were "very pleased to have David, John [Foster-Bey], and Wendy [Zenker] to lead our programs." Foster-Bey was named to run the AmeriCorps*State and National program and Zenker was tabbed to head AmeriCorps*NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps). "Their combined knowledge and experience will help us meet the President's goal of meeting our most pressing human needs through service and volunteerism," she added.
Corporation Board Chair Stephen Goldsmith said: "President Bush has called for service volunteers to play a critical role in strengthening faith and community groups that meet social needs, as well as emerging needs in homeland security. The Corporation is pleased to have David, John, and Wendy to help meet the President's goal of engaging more Americans to be citizens, not spectators."
According to the news release, AmeriCorps*VISTA "works primarily with faith-based and community organizations in low-income neighborhoods to develop lasting solutions to poverty in the areas of housing, health care, literacy, community development, technology, crime prevention, and hunger. The 6,000 AmeriCorps*VISTA members nationwide assist these groups by creating and developing projects, recruiting volunteers, raising funds, and otherwise building organizations' administrative, technological, and financial capacity."
"I salute the spirit of service and idealism of AmeriCorps*VISTA members as they contribute to empowering the poor and renewing our most impoverished communities," said Caprara. "I look forward to helping build on AmeriCorps*VISTA's long record of success."
David Caprara has a long history of service to the conservative community and right-wing causes. He served three year as deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1989 to 1992 in the first Bush White House; he worked for Virginia's conservative Governor George Allen as executive director of the Governor's Commission on Citizen Empowerment, where he launched the Governor's welfare reform plan. Caprara was one of the founders and is the former president of The Empowerment Network (TEN), "a resource hub for state legislators, grassroots organizations, and other civic leaders promoting American family and community renewal of civil society in the 21st century."
According to its website, "TEN's grassroots network provides the winning edge on policy initiatives that support youth character and family revitalization, entrepreneurship and the unleashing of faith-based initiatives and cultural remedies."
According to a VISTA official, the director determines the priorities of the program and to a certain extent has discretion over how funds are dispersed. Will David Caprara use VISTA as a platform to boost the Unification Church's political and social agenda? Will Moon front groups play a more active role in VISTA programs and will they receive taxpayer money to do so?
Dr. Richard Land the president of Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission told me that although he was not familiar with Mr. Caprara qualifications, he believed that "a person's religious convictions or religious beliefs should not qualify or disqualify a person for service." Land said that "government must not decide which groups are kosher and which aren't." There's no question that "the Unification Church is a cult," and that many people acknowledge that it "in no way shape or form is associated with orthodox Christianity," he dais. Land said that although the Church has used deception around its sponsorship of events (like the above-mentioned prayer luncheon) he was not worried about it setting the agenda for VISTA. "If the Unification Church supports the president, they are showing good taste."
Mike Meneer of the National AmeriCorps Association, whose Web site describes the 20,000 member organization as "the only non-profit organization solely dedicated to serving the needs of AmeriCorps alumni and members," said he didn't know anything about Caprara's background, and although he received a courtesy call from the new director, he had yet to meet with him.
Ironically, when President Bush announced his faith-based initiative in January 2001, some of its most vocal critics, including the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the Rev. Pat Robertson were concerned that organizations like the Church of Scientology, the Krishnas and the Unification Church would be eligible for faith-based grants. Will David Caprara help steer faith-based money in the Rev. Moon's direction?As Rob Boston says, "Moon is certainly interested in leaving some kind of legacy." Will Caprara help make that happen? Are there other Bush administration operatives with Moon front group affiliations? These are just some of the questions that remain to be answered. Bush's Faith-Based Initiative has suprisingly drawn criticism from members of the religious right
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