Winona -- City council has delayed approval of two dormitories for a college in Winona that is being set up by a group from the controversial Unification Church.
The one-week delay is to permit the community to learn more about the church, whose members are colloquially called Moonies. Critics have described it as a cult.
The group, which operates out of the Toronto church, wants to establish the World Education College of Applied Theology in the former Cardinal Newman East high school on Lewis Road. It will be the Canadian campus of the Korean-based Sun Moon University.
Rev. Stoyan Tadin, program director and English instructor for the college, says the group is supportive of the delay because it wants to dispel any concerns residents may have about the purpose of the college. Councillors Dave Mitchell and Larry Di Ianni asked for the delay because they have received e-mails from residents worried about the project. The college will be in Mitchell's ward.
"We're more than happy to do this," Tadin said yesterday. "The more families and people we meet, they'll be better informed and we'll be so much the better for it. We're not hiding anything."
Tadin has dismissed criticism the church is cult-like and says there are false perceptions about the church because it is a new religion.
Tadin has also said the college curriculum will not be based on the teachings of the church, whose members believe leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon is the successor to Jesus.
The group has already held one forum with 19 residents. George Lewis, who lives next door to the school, admits he and others had concerns, but feel more comfortable after meeting with Tadin.
"They were pinned to the wall on a number of things, but I think we all went away feeling happy to have them in the community," Lewis said. "That last thing they want to be is labelled a cult."
The college plans to host students from Japan, Korea, South America and the Middle East. It plans to build two dormitories for up to 160 students, but needs permission from the city to rezone part of the school property.
The 40-year-old high school closed in 1999. The group bought it from the Ontario Realty Corp. in the summer. It plans $1 million in renovations.