TAfter first expressing surprise at winning a national award, the executive director of a St. Charles-based homeless shelter has decided to decline the money and recognition bestowed by the Washington Times Foundation, citing a difference in philosophy with the foundation's backers. "I and the members of our board didn't know when I agreed to accept the award that the Washington Times was affiliated with Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church," said Darlene Marcusson, executive director of Lazarus House.
"When we learned of the affiliation, we decided to decline because our philosophy isn't in keeping with theirs," she said. Rev. Moon and the followers of his church are considered by some to be a cult. The 54-year-old church is connected to a multimillion-dollar media and business empire that includes ownership of the conservative Washington Times.
This year, the 5-year-old foundation sought nominations from high-profile figures for its $2,000 American Century awards, created to "honor exemplary individuals who have made important contributions in the areas of freedom, faith and family in the 20th Century." About 50 people were chosen for the award.
The recommendation to recognize Marcusson came from the office of U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)
"Someone in his office thought of us, thinking they would be helping us and our cause and giving us some recognition, but they weren't aware of the church's connection," Marcusson said. "It really wasn't clear to them or any of us. There was nothing in the literature we received that indicated that." John McGovern, Hastert's Illinois press secretary, said: "Our office is regularly asked to recommend names of people and organizations who perform good works in the community and deserve to be recognized. In this case, we felt Lazarus House reflected the criteria this award was seeking to recognize.
"We generally do not investigate organizations that are merely seeking guidance in honoring civic accomplishments." Rev. A.L. Dunlop of Mt. Olive African Methodist Episcopal Church in Chicago, who advises the foundation, said that "everybody is entitled to their own opinion. This is a democracy and she has every right to do that.
". . . The foundation believes in Judeo-Christian family concepts and that God doesn't look at anyone's color of skin. It wants to bring people together of all races."