The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, controversial founder of the Unification Church, will be in Utah next month to promote religious harmony, racial reconciliation and family renewal.
The visit is part of a 50-state tour, entitled, "We Will Stand! Rebuild the Family, Restore the Community, Renew the Nation" and will involve clergy from a variety of faiths, said Wendy Stovall, state director for Utah's Unification Church, which has held steady over the years at nine families. Moon will speak at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 10. Tickets for the event are $20.
The 81-year-old Korean evangelist first arrived in the United States in 1971, promoting the church he had founded. His followers, derisively called "Moonies," were objects of fear and ridicule by many Americans who considered the church a cult.
Today the church, which goes by the name, "Family Federation for World Peace and Unification," is working in 190 countries, with about 50,000 members in the U.S., Stovall said.
The faith owns The Washington Times, one of three church-owned newspapers in the country. The others are the Christian Science Monitor and the Deseret News, owned by the LDS Church.
The Unification Church is best-known for its mass wedding ceremonies. Indeed, Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon-known as the "Heavenly Parents-have presided over millions of marriage blessings and vow renewals, landing Moon in the Guinness Book of World Records as history's most prolific matchmaker, according to the church.
The Unification Church has existed peacefully in Salt Lake City since the early 1970s. In fact, Moon, who visited the state more than a decade ago, has found unexpected friends here.
After he was convicted of tax evasion in 1984 and sent to a federal prison for 13 months, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, came to his defense. "Quite simply, the prosecution of Rev. Moon has sent the wrong message," Hatch wrote in a December 1988 letter to the Justice Department. "The federal government accused a newcomer to our shores of criminal and intentional wrongdoing for conduct commonly practiced by other religious leaders, namely the holding of church funds in bank accounts in their own names."
Hatch, a Mormon, argued that a presidential pardon would rectify a "troubling precedent" that jeopardize the guaranteed protection of religious freedom. "I would like to underscore that I am not a close friend of Rev. Moon nor do I endorse his theology," he wrote.