Here's an example of a critical story finding its way from the blogosphere into print: In March the Rev. Sun Myung Moon managed to get himself and his wife crowned -- in a ceremony inside the Dirksen Senate Office Building -- as Ambassadors for Peace. The Washington Times reported briefly on the ceremony on March 24, but the paper, owned by members of Moon's Unification Church, stuck to a deadpan style:
Several dozen religious and civic leaders were honored last night in Washington for their "exceptional dedication" as peacemakers.
"Crown of Peace" awards were presented at a dinner at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the highlight of a three-day conference on peace and reconciliation, which ends today at the Washington Plaza Hotel.
To end divisions of pain, suffering and conflict, "one core principle is necessary -- the principle of living for the sake of others," said the Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak, chairman of the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP).
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the federation, and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, received Crown of Peace awards for their lifelong public service. In his remarks, Rev. Moon said historical divisions are solved when men and women form "God-centered families" and live in harmony with other such families.
As John Gorenfeld has reported on his Where in Washington, D.C., is Sun Myung Moon? blog, Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) participated in the ceremony -- at one point carrying a velvet pillow bearing one of the crowns to be placed on the Moons' heads.
Writing today for Salon, Gorenfeld presents a concise case for why the coronation is, well, problematic:
Moon, 84, the benefactor of conservative foundations like the American Family Coalition -- who served time in the 1980s for tax fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice -- has views somewhere to the right of the Taliban's Mullah Omar. Moon preaches that gays are "dung-eating dogs," Jews brought on the Holocaust by betraying Jesus, and the U.S. Constitution should be scrapped in favor of a system he calls "Godism" -- with him in charge. The man crowned "King of Peace" by congressmen once said, according to sermons reprinted in his church's Unification News: "Suppose I were to hit you with the baseball bat to stop you, bloodying your ear and breaking a bone or two, yet still you insisted on doing more work for Father."
Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune interviewed Davis, who defended his participation in the ceremony:
Davis said it was his understanding that the crowns represented the Moons' achievements as "true parents, both to their own children and I guess to lots of children and other people. I think they were being feted for their promotion of parenthood, of family values and family traditions."
That's quite a thought. In its heyday, Moon's cultlike Unification Church was famous for separating adherents from their families and promoting mass arranged marriages that violated American family traditions.
Lee Penn, a friend of GetReligion, pursued the story for The Christian Challenge magazine. Penn, who has devoted several years to extensive freelance reporting on the United Religions Initiative, reported on the presence of Archbishop G. Augustus Stallings of Imani Temple:
He is, among other things, the chairman of the Executive Committee of the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), a Unificationist organization. Stallings and the group have lately been involved in a crusade, inspired by Moon, to remove crosses from Christian churches, partly as an interfaith gesture and because of its alleged negative connotations.
Unificationist spokesmen claimed that 300 Christian congregations had removed the cross from their churches between April and August 2003.
Penn also reports that several members of Congress attended the ceremony, but that most left quickly when the event's purpose became clear:
A knowledgeable source on Capitol Hill said that some legislators attended the March 23 banquet without knowing the real sponsorship and intent of the gathering. "There was a mass exodus from the event as soon as folks realized that it was a Rev. Moon event, and that he was there," the informant said.
The Moonies claim in a video of the banquet that, in all, "81 U.S. senators and members of Congress ... 26 ambassadors to the United States ... and some 450 leaders from various fields...came to participate in an Ambassadors for Peace Awards ... and Crown of Peace Ceremony." If this is true, it would account for the "mass exodus" when assembled legislators realized whose party they were unwittingly attending.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has written before about Moon's messianic ambitions. This isn't likely the last manifestation of those ambitions.