Celibacy program is dropped, As source is tied to Church

New York Times/March 22, 1995
By Robert Hanley

New York -- Months ago, when Sister Marjorie McGregor, Janet Gilroy and Joanne Fruhauf learned about a slide presentation on AIDS that stressed teen-age celibacy, they were eager to promote it.

The three women, who lead groups on Long Island that encourage family values and premarital celibacy, worked hard at distributing the presentation, "Free Teens, USA." They championed the show's creators, Richard A. Panzer and Dr. William L. Bergman, at public and private schools, churches and doctors' offices on Long Island and in Brooklyn.

"We bought it because it's very good and very concise," Ms. Fruhauf, a chapter leader of Concerned Women of America said. "It's a very moral message."

Mrs. Gilroy, a leader of Project Respect, said, "We trusted and thought this is such a great thing they're doing."

Last fall, the women were stunned to hear from a specialist in anticult research that Mr. Panzer and Dr. Bergman had had leadership roles in the Unification Church. The church, led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, has been widely criticized for enticing young people to join and isolating them from their families.

Although the three women had no indication that the two men were recruiting in this case, they immediately cut their ties.

The men said their intent was only to stop the spread of AIDS.

"We may never be able to decipher the truth regarding the motives behind the program," Sister Marjorie McGregor said. "But I strongly recommend the Panzer program not be used by our young people."

The concerns of the Long Island groups are shared by their usual ideological opponent, Planned Parenthood, which also opposes Mr. Panzer and the presentation.

Public schools throughout the region have used the slides, with many unaware of Mr. Panzer and Dr. Bergman's links to Mr. Moon. Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, N.J. is among those. The school districts that have bought the slides include Bronxville, White Plains, Yorktown, Byram Hills and Briarcliff, in New York, "Free Teens" literature says.

In April, the New York City Board of Education approved Mr. Panzer and Dr. Bergman as vendors, clearing the way for the city's middle and high schools to buy the slides for $150 for a three-hour presentation or $200 for six hours. Board officials said that they believe that no schools have bought the program, but that they cannot be certain because the decision is up to the individual schools.

Mr. Panzer and Dr. Bergman have been promoting their program among teen-agers and health teachers in New York metropolitan region for years. Mr. Panzer has used highway billboards to urge teens to "Save Sex" until marriage.

In an interview, Mr. Panzer said his religion had no relation to "Free Teens." "It's not affiliated with any church, period," he said. "I have not received any funding from any church. The issue of personal religion of the author is not relevant."

Mr. Panzer said he was the director of the Unification Church in Rhode Island in the 80s, a decade after having graduated from Yale with a degree in film making. He also writes for the church newspaper, the Unification News. But he said he no longer hald any official church position.

Dr. Bergman is head of the World Medical Health Foundation in Manhattan. Critics have said the organization is a front for the Unification Church.

Mr. Moon has proclaimed himself the Messiah, with a goal of unifying all races and nations under his church, which is based in Korea. Critics say its recruiting focuses on the young and vulnerable. Often, the critics contend, the young people are required to sell flowers, attend lectures and study Mr. Moon's teachings long into the night, and they are drawn away from their families, physically and psychologically.

Abstinence is a church tenet. Traditionally, marriages are arranged and conducted in mass ceremonies, like one for 2,000 couples in Madison Square Gardens in 1982. Spouses are often required to live apart, celibate until the church deems them spiritually ready to consummate the marriage.

"This is reminiscent of the way that Moon organizations have often bee accused of functioning - creating mainstream of conservative-seeming front groups that are designed to carry out the wider mission of the church," Frederick Clarkson, editor of Front Lines Research, a Planned Parenthood bi-monthly, has written in the current issue.

Mr. Panzer has asked government agencies, including the New Jersey Health Department and the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, a branch of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, to review the slide presentation.

Asked about the Long Island group's concerns about indoctrinating teen-agers, Mr. Panzer said: 'I don't understand how it's supposed to take place."

Asked whether fears about recruitment were misguided, he said, "That's obvious," and called the collapse of the Long Island network tragic.

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