Unificationist group back for second go at charter

Pipe Dream/February 4, 2005
By Michelle Cornett

After being denied the opportunity to establish itself on campus, a self-described community service group linked to the Unification Church has come up for a second try at getting a Student Association charter.

CARP, the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles, has filed an official grievance with the S.A. judicial board over the November decision to reject its appeal for a charter, which would allow it to have meetings in University meeting rooms and table in the University Union, as well as possibly qualify it for funding.

"We were arbitrarily chosen to be not eligible for the charter," said Ten-Seng Guh, a junior computer science major and the founder of Binghamton's CARP chapter. "It seemed like we had filled out everything properly and there were no problems then. It was only after the fact that we were turned down."

CARP is the student arm of the Unificationist Church, an internationally recognized religious group headed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The church has garnered some infamy in years past for its often controversial practices and beliefs, including worshipping Rev. Moon - who has faced charges of tax fraud in the past - as the messiah.

They have also been said to conduct mass prearranged weddings and there are contested allegations against them of kidnappings and brainwashing on CARP retreats.

Because of these controversies, CARP is no stranger to opposition.

According to S.A. Rules Committee chair Brian Miller, the group was deemed a liability after reports of CARP-related kidnappings were found during Internet searches.

But CARP members feel the S.A.'s decision was made rashly and based on inaccurate information and rumors.

"If they used the same guidelines for liability for everyone, so many other organizations would fall into that category, like a paintballing trip chartered by the S.A.," Guh said.

Though CARP members have filed an official grievance over the decision, S.A. officials are standing by their decision.

"I have no problem with their decision to go to the Judicial Board, it's their right to do so," Miller said. "Hopefully the Judicial Board will uphold the committee's decision because it was deliberated on for a long time and we feel it was the right choice."

But according to top CARP officials, it's not the right choice.

"CARP has the same kind of foes in the media as the church," said Greg Jones, the assistant director of funding and developing at USA CARP's national headquarters. "People are looking at CARP and trying to align them with cults, but I don't think there have been any kidnapping claims in over 15 years."

Branches of CARP currently exist at a number of other universities, including Cornell, the University of Maryland and the University of California at Berkeley. The group's main activities, members said, are community service oriented.

"I think the judicial board should look at the CARP organizations on other campuses, not look 20 years back, but look at our activity now," Jones said.

Jones, an active member of the Unificationist Church, said that members of the church have been fighting against bad media coverage and discrimination for decades.

"It's the nature of what we've come up against," he said. "The walls and barriers of America are racial and religious."

Some S.A. representatives, however, discounted religious intolerance as a factor in the decision.

"We're just generally concerned about the liability," said Michael Schordine, the S.A.'s executive vice president. "I don't think anyone here is heavily against the group, no one wants to see them go down."

If the judicial board rules in favor of CARP, the decision will go back to the S.A. general assembly, which will either re-vote on the issue or send it back to the Rules Committee for further deliberation.

"If the Judicial Board sent it back I would expect it to pass," Schordine said.

Members of CARP say they will hold no grudges if the Judicial Board upholds the S.A. decision, and are considering the possibility of starting a community service organization under a different name which is not linked to the church.

"I think the name isn't so important as long as we're doing the activities we want to do, which is service," said freshman CARP member Renkoh Kato.

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