This review first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 14, number 3 (Winter 1992). For more information about the Christian Research Journal click here.
A Summary Critique of
(Regnery Gateway, 1991)
The Unification Church has always portrayed Sun Myung Moon, its founder and current leader, as a man who has suffered greatly because of his religious beliefs. Inquisition pursues this same course. In fact, the major theme of this mammoth book (705 pages) is what the author perceives as the inexcusable persecution of Sun Myung Moon.
Carlton Sherwood, Pulitzer-prize winning reporter, treats Moon and his followers with the highest respect and admiration while he describes Moon’s critics as ambitious, self-serving, and ruthless. He even devotes an entire chapter to Moon’s early biography in Korea, chronicling his grievous travails at the hands of both Communists and Christians. According to Sherwood, although Moon has not been physically tortured in the United States, he was unjustly prosecuted by the U.S. courts, unduly vilified by the American press, and unfairly scorned by the general public. The reason: racial and religious bigotry.
This indictment is leveled at a vast array of American institutions and people — from the Justice Department to the print media, from manipulative politicians to inflamed parents. No detractor of Moon is spared Sherwood’s censure. Although Moon was tried, convicted, and served time in prison for conspiracy Sherwood sees the real conspiracy as the American quest to “nail” Moon.
The bloodied body of a holy saint hanging in a North Korean torture chamber and forgiving his tormentors is an image not far different from the picture Sherwood paints of Moon’s ordeal in this country. The writer makes obvious allusions that parallel Moon’s experiences in Korea and the United States. For example, just as Moon had carried his injured friend, Jung Hua Pak, on his back for several grueling days despite terrible climate conditions in their flight from the North Korean army, Moon also supported his discouraged friend and co-defendent, Takeru Kamiyama, during their tax trial and imprisonment. Another example: just as Moon shared his meager food rations with other starving Korean cell-mates, Moon also quietly performed the duties of other prisoners who were too sick to work in a federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut.
Interestingly, this image of Sun Myung Moon is also not far different from the biblical description of the suffering Messiah — or specifically of Jesus Christ. Moon is no ordinary victim in the web of political intrigue. In Sherwood’s eyes he is a martyr who refuses to flee from the clutches of ruthless people — a compelling portrait of Moon that his followers have long tried, but miserably failed, to foster within our society.
The question is, does Inquisition succeed?
THE PURSUIT OF WORLDLY GOODS
On October 22, 1981, Sun Myung Moon was summoned for his arraignment in New York City at the Foley Square federal complex, where he pleaded not guilty to a set of indictments ranging from fraud to tax evasion. Most of these charges centered on the interests that had accumulated in Moon’s account in a Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City but had not been reported to the Internal Revenue Service during the early seventies.
On the one hand, the Justice Department claimed that $1.5 million had been deposited into Moon’s account, which he used for himself. Therefore, he should have reported the interests earned on those funds and paid the proper taxes. On the other hand, Moon’s attorney contended that those funds belonged to the Unification Church and were used for church-related purposes. Since Moon was and is trustee of church funds, it was not uncommon to have church funds in a bank account in his name.
Sherwood not only dismisses the claims of government officials, he also disputes the same assertions when made by politicians, reporters, and cult watchers — all who believe Moon is seeking earthly riches and financial power. Sherwood contends that this view of Moon’s ambition is false and is an appalling representation at Moon’s actually virtuous intentions. In fact, he suggests that the slanderous statements about Moon’s luxurious lifestyle can be compared to the verbal attacks aimed at Jesus.
A case in point is Sherwood’s scathing opinion of Congressman Donald M. Fraser, who chaired the Subcommittee on International Organizations, which conducted a lengthy and costly probe into Moon’s possible ties with the South Korean government, According to Sherwood, Fraser focused on a particular remark made by Moon in order to prove that Moon intended to create his own theocracy: “The time will come, without my seeking it, that my words will almost serve as law. If I ask a certain thing, It will be done.”
Sherwood states that Fraser intentionally jerked this quote out of context, twisting it to mean something totally different than what Moon had originally intended — a practice Sherwood contends is common among Moon critics. He points out that Moon’s words are similar to Jesus’ words in John 12:48. He then echoes the Unification party line on Moon statements such as this one to say that Moon’s message was no more political in nature than was Jesus’. “In truth,” says Sherwood, “Moon was the founder and head of a religion, a church, and he cared little about earthly goods” (p. 214). Herein lies the critical flaw in Sherwood’s perspective on Moon’s earthly mission.
According to Sun Myung Moon, Adam and Eve not only fell spiritually, but they fell physically as well. It was God’s purpose to establish a heavenly kingdom on earth, but Satan thwarted God’s plan when he physically seduced Eve. Thus, humanity has to be redeemed both spiritually and physically. Jesus Christ, as Lord of the First Advent, was to marry a sinless woman and commence the course of full redemption for everyone through his sinless family. Again, however, God’s plan was foiled when Jesus died on the cross, redeeming humanity spiritually but not physically.
Moon continues his teaching, saying that the Lord of the Second Advent must fulfill what Jesus left unaccomplished; that is, establish the kingdom of God on earth by perfecting himself, his family, his nation, and the world. He must restore all earthly things back to God, and that can only be done when all earthly things are under his control. Indeed, most members of the Unification Church believe Moon is the lord of the Second Advent, including Moon himself.
What Moon perceives as his divine mission is certainly not what Jesus envisioned for himself, Moon does seek economic power; it is a major tenet in his doctrine. For Sherwood to assert otherwise is to do what be claims Moon’s detractors have done on that point: they “managed to get that wrong” (p 547). Either that, or he understands the Unificationists’ arguments better than he would like us to believe.
A BAD RAP
Carlton Sherwood won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigative reporting of a Catholic scandal involving the Pauline Fathers of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. He also has earned the Peabody Award and many other journalistic laurels for breaking the news on other religious corruptions. According to Sherwood, he accepted a temporary staff position at the Washington Times, a newspaper primarily owned by members or the Unification Church, because he “hoped to accomplish what until then no reporter had been able to do: to penetrate the organizational and financial structure of the Unification Church” (p. 16). In other words, he wanted to uncover new dirt on Moon and add him to his trophy case.
Sherwood says the further he probed into the inner affairs of the Unification Church the more he realized that Sun Myung Moon and church leaders were hiding no skeletons in the closet. Instead, he discovered that Moon and his followers “were and continued to be the victims of the worst kind of religious prejudice and racial bigotry this country has witnessed in over a century” (p. 24). What he had been looking for was an Asian Elmer Gantry; what he found was an American witch hunt.
To Sherwood, witch hunters descended on Moon from all quarters of our society. Robert Dole, a Republican Senator from Kansas; Margaret Singer, a psychologist and Berkeley professor; Martin Flumenbaum, a federal prosecutor; Ted Patrick, a professional deprogrammer; Tom Basham, a national journalist; and Daphne Greene, a leader of Citizens Engaged in Reuniting Families, are a few of the “witch hunters” whom Sherwood characterizes as ruthless and self-serving.
I don’t know whether I felt relief or disappointment when I saw that my name — as the author of a book critical of Moon — was not included in Inquisition’s index. What I did find interesting was that three pages were listed in the index after Daphne Greene’s name. In the text, however, she is listed on one other page, where she is referred to as “Daffy” Greene. Whether an oversight in the editing of the index or not, the insult still remained in the book. It not only reflects Sherwood’s attitude toward Moon’s critics, but it also illustrates how he portrays their character.
In another section of the book, Sherwood castigates the reporting of Tom Basham as “gonzo journalism.” He says Basham’s account of Moon is “terribly droll” and “terribly bigoted” (p. 501). And yet, two pages later, Sherwood states that the liberal journalists reproved Richard Nixon during the Watergate inquiry because he had clobbered George McGovern in November 1972. Sherwood attacks Moon’s detractors in the same impertinent way he characterizes their criticism of Moon. By discounting their scholarship and truthfulness in this flippant manner, he hopes to make their claims about Moon and his church “laughable.”
Sherwood craftily assails both the integrity of Moon’s critics and the reliability of what they have to say. Certainly, some politicians and reporters have tried to advance their careers by pinning some outlandish accusations on Moon. Even more appalling is the conduct of some deprogrammers who have abused the rights of Unificationists in their quests to make big money. Sherwood, however, does not distinguish these from the sincere. By blasting almost everyone, Sherwood makes sure that no one is left to believe but followers of Moon and their friends.
And Sherwood himself believes. The Unificationists explain that their church has given away millions to inner-city churches, spent millions to promote understanding among the races, contributed millions to charitable works — all with “no strings attached” (p. 21). Why then, Sherwood wonders, would Moon try to swindle the government out of “about $7,400” (p. 397)? Sherwood naturally swallows their explanation hook, line, and sinker. He also believes them when they discount the stories about the use of mind-control techniques used in the church. “In a word,” says Sherwood, is all “bunk” (p.22).
To anyone who has personally associated with those Unificationists out in the trenches since the early seventies, and not just with the sharp, articulate representatives of the church, what Sherwood says is bunk. Of course, many reports about “brainwashed Moonies” have been exaggerated. Nevertheless, there is substance to the charge that recruiting abuses have been a problem in the Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon didn’t receive a bad rap for nothing.
A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE?
Despite the worldly intentions of Sun Myung Moon and the biased reporting of Carlton Sherwood, the government investigation and trial of Moon and Takeru Kamiyama for criminal tax evasion still demands examination and commentary. For that reason, Inquisition does have value in raising disturbing questions about the American justice system and its intrusion into religious liberties.
Takeru Kamiyama was indicted with Moon primarily because of his testimony at the grand jury hearing, after which perjury counts were brought against him. Kamiyama is a longtime friend of Moon and member of the Unification Church. After he came to the United States from Japan in 1972, he served as Moon’s financial adviser. He also became the logical target for the Justice Department. His testimony served as the bridge leading to Moon’s trial and conviction.
At this point Sherwood discusses the inequity of those proceedings. First, perjury counts against Kamiyama were based on testimony given in Japanese. Since Kamiyama spoke very little English, he had to have an interpreter. Under the best circumstances, prosecutors can easily exploit this complicated situation. Second, he had no right to his own interpreter (legislation has since rectified that procedure). Instead, he was given an interpreter who had serious problems with legal terms. Third, he did not have counsel to guide him through the hearings. Grand juries are not intended to be adversarial, but in this case the prosecutor dominated the inquiry.
The judicial handling of Kamiyama is very troubling, but it does not end there. What is further alarming is what occurred during the trial of Moon and Kamiyama. First, Judge Gerald L. Goettel denied their request for a bench trial; that is, he ordered a trial by jury instead of determining the case himself. Because of the terrible press he had been receiving, Moon naturally wanted the judge to decide his fate, but that was not to be. Second, although the judge instructed the jurors not to read articles about the case outside of the testimony and evidence presented in court, newspapers were still made available in the jury room. Third, although Moon was a first offender, he was sentenced to eighteen months in prison. For evading taxes, that is quite a sentence.
Sherwood examines a number of other problems with the case, but one point stands out — if Moon had knowingly committed a crime, why didn’t he flee the country? “Moon and Kamiyama could have simply boarded a plane and left the U.S. at any time, up to and including the day they both surrendered themselves to the guards at Danbury prison” (p.416).
Because we disagree with his theology and/or disapprove of the way he conducts his church is not reason enough to say, “He got what he deserved.” If Moon, as a religious leader, is innocent or had made an error on his taxes, then all religious leaders need to beware. The religious liberties that were supposed to protect Moon are the same religious liberties that protect all religious leaders. For that reason, Jerry Falwell, Joseph Lowery, and other religious leaders presented amicus curiae (friends of the court) briefs on behalf of Moon.
Although they dissociated themselves from Moon’s theology and church, Falwell and the other evangelicals who defended Moon on this particular issue received strong criticism from other Christians. There is good reason why this criticism occurred. Often in the past, the Unification Church exploited friendly gestures by publicizing it to mean support for Moon and his movement. Grave concern was raised that this might happen with Falwell and the others, especially since the Unification Church has put considerable effort and money into developing ties with the evangelical community for the past several years.
For his-part, Carlton Sherwood does not stress Falwell’s role in the case. No partnerships between evangelicals and the Unification Church are even alluded to. What is forcefully stated is that Moon has already done his time in prison because or a miscarriage of justice — will others follow? In Inquisition, the writer is not very hopeful. But at least by asking that question, he alerts all of us to the need for equal justice in a society, better than most, yet far from perfect.
— J. Isamu Yamamoto