Mooning Martin Luther King Jr.

Claiming credit for King’s revered status, a Sun Myung Moon front group gets $80,000 in federal money to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day

If there was an organization that received taxpayer money and appeared to be doing reasonably good things in the community, would you care whether that organization was a front group for a powerful political-religious enterprise? Would it matter to you that the head of that enterprise had a much broader — some call it an anti-democratic — agenda, than merely helping out in the community? Would you warn your neighbors about the group?

Those were some of the questions facing Connecticut State Senator Bill Finch when he recognized that the Bridgeport, Connecticut-based Service for Peace (SFP) was affiliated with the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.

On December 8, 2005, Finch posted the following information on his website:

In its heyday the Moon Organization had literally hundreds of “front groups.” These groups generally had sunny exteriors with lofty and socially conscientious goals. Their real purpose was to recruit unsuspecting, idealistic people into the Moon web. Before recruits knew it the idealistic goals were gone and they were being drawn into Moon’s agenda of fund raising, recruiting, weird conferences and mass weddings of strangers. This all in the name of a pseudo-religion, which demands you reject your parents and embrace Moon and his wife as your “True Parents.”

The Moon Organization is opening a new front group right here in Bridgeport. Service for Peace will locate in the Black Rock Arts Center. Perhaps you saw the CT Post article touting this group, which will be working to involve the area youth with their idealistic mission. Before you or your family members get involved check them out. My friend, Steve Hassan, author and self-described former “Moonie” keeps a web site where you can check out any group that sounds fishy or too good to be true. Steve’s website is

A broken clock is right two times a day. Even cult front groups do good work. Don’t be misled by slick brochures with lofty goals and lots of pictures of smiling faces. Those faces year later will be crying over the years of their lives wasted serving Moon or other cult leaders.

Be skeptical and forewarned.

It is unlikely that Finch was prepared for some of the responses he subsequently received. One person responded:

I was at their grand opening and have worked with Charles the head of Service for Peace in our Rotary club for a couple years now. Beware of people doing good works? I don’t see it. The Martin Luther King Initiative seems like a good idea that resonates with many people. What should I fear? when do they make their move? what are the tell tale signs that I’m about to be dragged off to some Mooney brain washing room? Bill I’ve been listening to this rhetoric for years and I see very little proof of any wrong doing on these peoples part. Am I missing something???????

Someone signing on as “Anonymous” suggested that the State Senator’s comments were “ludicrous”: “Who are you to judge a world wide religious movement?” Another anonymous poster wrote: “I find it to be a chilling reprehensible development when an elected government official supports and sanctions religious bigotry on his blog.”

Diana Vaptzarova, the Executive Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Initiative at Service for Peace in Bridgeport also responded:

Service For Peace is a non-profit, non-religious organization with a mission to provide service-learning opportunities to everyone who wants to improve themselves and their communities and work for lasting peace. Our service programs deepen cooperation between diverse groups and communities and the world, leading to lasting change.

Last week, Service For Peace was one of six non-profit organizations nationwide to receive a federal grant totaling almost ¼ of a million over three years from the National Corporation for Community Service in support of projects for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

While organized religion is not my “cuppa tea” and I am not a member of the Unification Church or any other church, I believe people have different paths in their lives and I respect their choices. In fact, I find diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, etc. not only intriguing but also enriching. At Service for Peace, when we choose our partners or employees, we do not discriminate on any basis, including that of religious affiliation. As a result we work with a diverse group of people from different ethnicities, races, religions and backgrounds.

Several other responders supported Finch.

Finch wasn’t a stranger to Moon enterprises. In 1992, as a member of the anti-Moon Coalition of Concerned Citizens, he was opposed to affiliating the Bridgeport-based College with Moon, and protested outside a meeting of the newly constituted board of trustees, the Connecticut Post reported. Led by then alderman Finch and fellow alderman Peter Niles, as well as Rabbi Israel Stein of the Congregation Rodeph Shalom, the protesters said at the time they would continue trying to thwart the merger through legal action. (From “Moon group members join board,” by Debbie Carvalko, Connecticut Post, August 6, 1992.)

And in 1997, then Bridgeport City Council member Finch was quoted in a Washington Post report by Marc Fisher and Jeff Leen headlined “Stymied in U.S., Moon’s Church Sounds a Retreat.” “If you own a college [Moon owns Bridgeport University] and want to get somebody into the country, all you have to do is call them a student,” said Finch, a former UB alumni director who now heads the Coalition of Concerned Citizens. “And if you want to bring money into the country, all you have to do is call it tuition.”

Service for Peace

In December 2005, The Corporation for National and Community Service announced it was giving out six grants totaling $500,000 “to support projects across the country on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.” Moon’s Service for Peace was given $80,000. A government press release pointed out that Service for Peace “plans to use its $80,000 grant to make subgrants in several states. The organization plans to have up to 70 project sites a year, with between 100 and 2,000 volunteers at each site on community-focused projects.”

According to its website, “The Corporation for National and Community Service provides opportunities for Americans of all ages and backgrounds to serve their communities and country through three programs: Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America. Together with USA Freedom Corps, the Corporation is working to foster a culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility in America.”

At its website, Service for Peace says it is “an international not-for-profit organization that brings diverse groups together in service in order to cross barriers of race, religion, class, creed, or national origin, and address urgent social needs.”

“On MLK Day, January 15th, 2007, Service for Peace partners and chapters engaged 66,562 volunteers in 857 projects in 17 cities in ‘Advancing the Dream for Peaceful Communities,'” the organization’s website reported.

Michael Balcomb, National Director of Service for Peace USA, is a longtime member of the Unification Church. He is cited as a co-founder of the Pure Love Alliance (PLA), which, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in July 2000, “one cult expert described as a ‘front’ for the controversial Unification Church…” In a letter to the London Times dated September 27, 1999, Balcomb wrote to protest the “lazily researched” article critical of Moon’s operations in Jardim, Brazil:

How odd that Ms. [Gabriella] Gamini [the author of the piece] made time to interview several local skeptics, none of whom appear to have even visited New Hope, but apart from the farm manager did not bother to talk to even one of the hundreds of Unificationists, including myself and a couple of dozen Britons, who thought the effort and expense of a journey to this distant corner of the world was worthwhile.

“Tax documents show that Service for Peace is affiliated with the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles, a Moon group for college students founded in 1984,” Church & State, a publication of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (Americans United), reported in March 2006.

Moon elevates King?

A long-time Moon watcher recently sent me the following e-mail:

Hyun Jin Moon (aka Preston) — Moon’s third son by the current marriage and likely heir to the Moon throne — spoke before a group of Korean officials on Jan 13, 2007. He talked about how he felt like the prodigal son coming to Korea, where he was born, and how he felt more comfortable talking to people of other countries who he has spent more time with.

Then he said “…many Koreans have a very negative image of my father which to me was hard for me to understand. Especially since, as a Korean man and as an Asian, he transcended the color and racial barriers in the most powerful nation of America where the most prestigious families as well as leaders of that nation respect and honor his work.”

Hyun Jin insisted that it was impossible to discuss interfaith dialogue in America without talking about Moon. And he claimed that “Sun Myung Moon was the one who initiated the interfaith movement that is now the basis upon which the UN is trying to resolve this peace issue in the Middle East.”

Then Hyun Jin talked about how Moon had caused Martin Luther King “to be respected nationally”:

In terms of interracial issues in the nation of America once again, you talk about the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The one who has actually brought Martin Luther King, a figurehead among the black community within the United States; it has been my father’s work that’s really raised Martin Luther King on the national level, to be respected nationally. So in the realm of interracial, you have to talk about the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Several longtime observers of Moon’s operations have made it clear that the $80,000 grant to Service for Peace is merely a drop in the financial bucket and ordinarily wouldn’t be worth commenting on. Far more important to Moon is that it provides another entry point for building relationships with folks in the Black community.

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. Read other articles by Bill.

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  1. Christopher (Fipher) D. Osborn said on May 30th, 2007 at 4:27am #

    Since I have been a member of the Unifiucation movement since birth and have in fact worked with SFP in Massachusetts on one occasion, I suppose my view can be looked upon as biased. At the same time, it can also be looked upon as experianced.

    I beleive Rev. Moon is a great man, and even if he isn’t the 2nd comming of the messiah(as he and his followers claim, including myself), the principles that he promotes are still truely good principles, and the world he is working towards(one world nation with no negative distinciotns between race, religion, or class’) is still a grand dream. SFP is one tool in a whole toolbox full that Rev. Moon is using to realise this dream, and considering the good it does I commend the U.S. government for actively supporting it.