Several members of Congress who attended a March 23 Capitol Hill event at which the Rev. Sun Myung Moon was proclaimed "king of America" are now scurrying to distance themselves from it, with some saying they were duped into showing up.
The event was widely reported on Moon-related websites earlier this year, but is only now garnering attention in the secular media. In May, Church & State ran an item about the coronation of Moon, which took place at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. (See "Sun Myung Moon Crowned 'King Of America' At U.S. Senate Building," People & Events.)
Several websites also picked up the story. Moon critic John Gorenfeld broke the story in March on his website (www.gorenfeld.net/blog/) and later ran a lengthy article about the event on the website gadflyer.com. About two weeks later, Gorenfeld did a similar piece for the online magazine salon.com, which sparked national headlines.
Two U.S. senators from Minnesota, Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Norm Coleman, said they attended the event briefly because some people from Minnesota were being honored. Both said they had no idea it was a Moon event.
"This is the M.O. of the Moon organization," Chris Lisi, Dayton's spokeswoman, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "This is their history. When people found out that this had happened, no one was surprised that the Moon organization had duped members of Congress intentionally because this is what they do."
Moon, a controversial Korean evangelist and owner of the ultra-conservative Washington Times newspaper, claims he is the messiah sent to complete the failed mission of Jesus Christ. Lisi said Dayton does not share Moon's unorthodox theology, remarking, "He's a Presbyterian, for heaven's sake. He didn't even know who Rev. Moon was when I first brought it up."
Coleman also said he had been duped, telling the paper, "We went to greet constituents. We weren't present for any strange activities that took place."
An organizer for the event, Archbishop George Stallings of the Imani Temple in Washington, D.C., at first seemed to agree with Dayton and Coleman, telling the Pioneer Press that Dayton was not aware Moon would be there or that the event was sponsored by Moon organizations. Stallings even apologized to Dayton for the confusion.
But the next day, Stallings took a different tack in The Washington Post. The event, he noted was sponsored by The Washington Times Foundation and other organizations that have a long association with Moon.
"You'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind to not know that any event that is sponsored by The Washington Times... could involve the influence, or the potential presence, of the Rev. Moon," he said.
Stallings said an invitation that was faxed to all members of Congress on March 8 stated that the event was sponsored by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (a Moon front group) and noted that Moon and his wife would be recognized during the event.
The exact number of members of Congress who attended the Moon coronation is in dispute. Moon websites put the number at 81, but Gorenfeld said that figure is probably inflated. He thinks at least one dozen were there.
It is also unclear how Moon got access to a Senate office building. Such arrangements require approval from a senator, but it's not known which senator signed off on the Moon event. Lisi told The Post that Dayton had nothing to do with Moon getting the room.
Some lawmakers say they knew the event was sponsored by Moon but did not know he would receive a crown. U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) said he went to salute The Washington Times.
"I had no idea what would happen," he said, referring to the coronation.
One member of Congress, Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), is unapologetic about his association with Moon. During the coronation, Davis carried the pillow containing the crown that was placed on Moon's head.
Davis told The Post he is a Methodist who disagrees with Moon's theology but salutes him as a peacemaker. Davis also conceded that he has accepted money from Moon associates.