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Title Moon Organization - Fisher - Celebrities Pulled Into Moon

Celebrities Pulled Into Moon’s Orbit Speakers Unaware of Conclave’s Cult Speakers

By Marc Fisher

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, July 30 1996; Page E01

The Washington Post

Gerald Ford is going because Rosalynn Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev and Coretta Scott King went before him. Bill Cosby is going because George Bush is going, too. George Bush is going because he believes in world peace.

When the Family Federation for World Peace opens its Inaugural World Convention at the National Building Museum tomorrow, Cosby will be the entertainer and Ford will give a keynote address, but the climax of the proceedings will be the Founder’s Address by Hak Ja Han Moon — wife of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church and of all four organizations sponsoring the convention.

The Rev. and Mrs. Moon are clearly mentioned in the invitation that several thousand Washingtonians have received. But some of the most prominent speakers at the conference say they signed up without the slightest notion that their paycheck would come from groups founded by Moon, the messianic Korean whose church has been dogged by complaints of aggressive recruiting practices.

“He didn’t know,” said Ford’s chief of staff, Penny Circle. “There was no indication that Reverend Moon was involved. President Ford saw the previous speakers on the list they sent us,” a list brimming with world leaders from former British prime minister Edward Heath to former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney.

But the event’s coordinator, Larry Moffitt of the Washington Times Foundation, said yesterday that “We take great pains to let everybody know who founded this. Everybody is routinely given an awareness of the founder. If somebody is not aware, that is not possible. That is not true.”

Asked if Ford had any misgivings about speaking at a Moon-sponsored event, Circle said, “I don’t know. He’s committed to do it now. It’s kind of a done deal.”

Late last night Bill Cosby said, “When I look down the list and see Gerald Ford, you say, well, gee whiz, that’s fine, so you go ahead and sign up,” adding that he first learned of the connection to Moon from a Washington Post reporter last Friday.

“My decision was, call these people and tell them I’m giving the money back,” Cosby said. “Then their lawyers got on the phone.” After lawyers for the Moon organization said they would not free him from his agreement, Cosby agreed to go on with the show, he said. “I would not do this organization again,” Cosby said. “Not because they are evil, but because there are some families that are hurt by this.”

Bush spokesman Jim McGrath confirmed that the ex-president — whose speeches to Moon-founded groups in Japan last year won wide and critical attention — would speak at the Washington event. McGrath then called back to add that Bush will donate his fee, which reportedly runs $80,000 per speech, to charity.

Ford will not. “He is taking an honorarium on this one,” Circle said. “It’s a business thing.” Neither Ford nor any of the other speakers contacted would divulge the size of their fees. Agents who handle lecture bookings say the Moon organizations pay some of the highest fees in the industry, often topping $100,000 for a single speech. Moffitt said the size of the honorariums paid to speakers is confidential.

The connection to Moon came as no surprise to some convention speakers. “Everybody knows the Unification Church is somewhere in the background,” said Kevin Carlton, spokesman for Boston University President John Silber, who has spoken at several Moon-sponsored meetings.

“This is an important issue being addressed by an impressive group of speakers,” Silber said in a statement defending his decision to speak at the convention. “Is it a slow news day or are you guys getting nervous about the Washington Times — and why would you?” (The Unification Church owns the Washington Times newspaper.)

Critics of Moon’s worldwide evangelical and business network say the former presidents, celebrities and educators recruited to speak at World Peace conventions are being used.

“They will be asked to pose with Reverend and Mrs. Moon for pictures that will be used around the world in recruiting,” said Herbert Rosedale, president of the American Family Foundation, an anti-cult group. “Moon uses these conferences to establish their credibility. Once you’ve sold yourself, there’s no going back.”

“All these people should know better,” said Cynthia Lilley, founder of Mothers Opposed to Moon, a group of parents whose children have been recruited into the Unification Church. “My daughter would tell me over and over how in their recruiting films, they would show Moon with Bush to impress young people. They use the films of Moon and Bush and other celebrities to reassure parents that it’s okay that their children are on the streets selling flowers 18 hours a day.”

Lilley and members of her group have written letters to many of the politicians and entertainers who have accepted invitations from Moon groups, urging them to steer clear. She has received few responses.

In the mid-1980s, Moon, who tells followers he is the Messiah, served more than a year in federal prison after he was convicted of tax fraud. That setback, along with years of criticism from former members, college officials and parents who watched as young people vanished into the Unification Church, spurning families and friends, has left the Moon organization struggling for credibility in this country.

Earlier this year, Moon, 76, announced plans to hold a “Holy Wedding” of 3.6 million couples in Washington in November 1997. Moon has held numerous mass weddings of thousands of followers — often marrying American men to Korean women, all complete strangers until their wedding day.

Along with its massive investment in the money-losing Washington Times newspaper — a venture that Moon deputy Bo Hi Pak has said cost the church upward of $400 million — Moon’s network of corporations includes U.S. Property Development Corp., an Alexandria-based real estate company, and Atlantic Video, a production company also in Alexandria.

But despite Moon’s dozens of small businesses in more than 20 U.S. cities, the Unification Church has won relatively few acolytes. Although church officials have said they have more than 30,000 followers in this country, former members and cult-watcher groups put the figure at little more than a tenth of that figure.

Moon has staged a series of conventions with lectures by prominent politicians, educators and celebrities, sponsored by the Moon-owned organizations mounting this week’s convention — the Family Federation for World Peace, the Women’s Federation for World Peace, the Summit Council for World Peace, and the Washington Times Foundation. The Family Federation’s offices are in the Washington Times newspaper building on New York Avenue NE. Calls to the Family Federation were referred to the Washington Times Foundation, a charitable organization funded by the newspaper.

In Unification Church theology, all religions are to become one, in a global theocracy under Moon, the representative of “the victorious, original Adam.” Moon preaches that mankind fell from grace because Eve had sexual relations with Satan, and that salvation will come only through Moon.

The largest World Peace Federation conventions have been held in Asia, Europe and South America. The Moon groups decided last year to expand their program of conferences to include major North American cities. Similar sessions were held in Tampa and Boston this spring; some local media covered those events without mention of Moon or the Unification Church.

“They use these meetings to network, to build credibility for the church, and to inspire the membership to believe that Moon is more accepted than he really is,” said Steve Hassan, a Massachusetts mental health counselor who runs the Resource Center for Freedom of the Mind, which counsels people who have been involved in “abusive mind control.” Hassan is a former assistant director of the Unification Church’s national headquarters.

Moffitt, the Washington Times Foundation official, said the four sponsoring groups focus on “morals and values, and healing and reconciliation between opposing groups.” He said the conference is meant to attract former heads of state who still wield influence over the agendas of their nations. “We want to see them put family matters at the top of the agenda,” he said.

While the Unification Church has no direct role in the convention, Moffitt said that “the cross-reference for all of the groups is that all of them share Reverend and Mrs. Moon as founder.”

After his experience in Japan last year, when legal and church groups urged Bush not to lend his prestige to Moon-sponsored events, “President Bush is aware of this group and this organization and the work it tries to do strengthening the family,” said spokesman McGrath. “He’s happy to speak to them just as President Ford and Coretta Scott King and Barbara Walters and others have either taken part or will be taking part.”

Walters, the ABC News anchorwoman, did speak at a Women’s Federation for World Peace event, but later said she had been unaware of the link to Moon and would not do so again. Other speakers at World Peace conferences have included actor Christopher Reeve, astronaut Sally Ride, and former GOP presidential candidate Richard Lugar.

The connection between the Family Federation and Moon “is all very, very surprising,” said Betsy Berg, an agent who books lectures for entertainment and political figures and frequently signs up clients, including Cosby, to speak at events sponsored by the World Peace federations. “We’ve been doing business with them for a couple of years. They do maybe 20 events a year and they always have big-name people.

“Nobody’s ever been aware that there’s a connection to Moon,” Berg said. “If we were aware of that, we’d be concerned.”

Bush’s spokesman said the former president has heard from “cult awareness groups and things like that, but this group is about strengthening the family and that’s what President and Mrs. Bush are deeply focused on.”

Bush’s appearances last year came in the wake of more than $150 million in damage awards to thousands of Japanese who sued the Unification Church and a Moon-owned company, Happy World, alleging that they were pressured to contribute millions of dollars to assure that their deceased loved ones would be happy in the spirit world.

In Japan, Mrs. Moon told an audience of 50,000 followers that her husband was “instrumental in bringing about the collapse of communism.”

@CAPTION: Bill Cosby is going ahead with his appearance at tomorrow’s World Peace convention here.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company