Moon-Lit Matchmakers Nibble At Apple

New York Post, Dec. 7, 1999
By Christopher Francescani

Looking for love and companionship? Forget the bar scene -- join the Moonies.

A small army of Moonies has taken to the streets to woo recruits for the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's next mass wedding in Seoul, South Korea -- on Feb. 13.

Japanese women are staked out on Midtown sidewalks, holding signs reading "Looking for Love?" and "Find Your Ideal Mate" and directing likely prospects to the church's New York City headquarters on West 43rd Street.

The women -- who recruit in pairs -- are volunteers from Moon's Unification Church in Tokyo, said New York church spokesman Richard Lewis.

"It's not a recruitment drive. It's just trying to help people as couples," Lewis told The Post. "We're trying to build families."

The eager emissaries are stationed along Fifth and Sixth Avenues in the 40s. For hours at a time, the women smile and wave their signs in the faces of passers-by, male and female, young and old. They are mostly ignored.

But when someone stops, they giggle and point to the headquarters address on their sign. All the women observed by The Post spoke very little English and answered questions largely by pointing and waving.

When a prospect agrees to visit the church, they take him -- or her - by the arm and try to walk the prospect there.

It's not the first such recruitment drive, says Steve Hassan [Warning: Steve Hassan is not recommended by this Web site. Read the detailed disclaimer to understand why.], a former high-ranking Moonie who's been tracking the church since he left it 23 years ago.

"Right now, Moon is hurting, and he needs money, and so they're doing this major fund-raising drive," Hassan said. "They do this often right before mass weddings. They want Americans, and they want their money, so they go after the lonely and lovesick."

Those who visit the 43rd Street headquarters meet "counselors" like Mary Moriarty, an Australian photographer who moved to New York several years ago after being "matched" to a church member.

To be paired with a mate, she said, an applicant must attend a daylong seminar at the church, submit a photo of him or herself and pay $100 -- "to show that you are sincere, that you are genuinely interested."

Then Rev. Moon looks at the photo and divines with whom the recruit will spend the rest of his life.

Several days prior to the wedding, she said, you meet your mate and spend some time together to become acquainted before the ceremony, which is usually held in a football stadium or arena.

Denis Beltran, who was approached by church members in his native Peru and on the streets of New York, was matched last year to a Japanese stewardess.

"I wanted to try an alternative" to more traditional dating methods, said Beltran, who works for a Manhattan nonprofit organization. "I'm a guy who wants to get married just once."

Beltran said he studied for more than two years, attending seminars and volunteering within the church -- remaining sexually abstinent, as per church rules, before he was married at last year's mass wedding ceremony in Madison Square Garden.

He said he's so happy with his spouse that he brought his sister and brother into the church and both recently found matches.

"Rev. Moon and his wife are like a parent for all mankind," Beltran said. "Now I have many friends who I consider family."

Beltran said he never felt pressure to give the church money. When he was asked for $1,000, he said, he donated what he could afford: $300.

Moon critic Hassan contends Beltran and others are being scammed by a money-mad egomaniac who calls himself the Messiah and breaks his own rules.

"It's mind-control," he said. "It starts with a lecture and it goes to a three-day workshop, then a seven-day workshop, then a 21-day workshop, and, at least from my experience, that's the point at which you take your money out of the bank, quit your job and move in."

Hassan -- author of the upcoming "Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves" -- said, "They try to keep you away from your family and friends, they interrupt your phone calls, and they try not to let you be alone at all."

Church spokesman Lewis dismissed Hassan's claims as "ridiculous" and said hundreds of millions of church members around the world can attest to the success of the matchmaking.

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