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The Unification Church is a new religious movement founded by Koreanmarker religious leader Sun Myung Moon. In 1954, the Unification Church was formally and legally established in Seoulmarker, South Korea as The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC). In 1994, Moon changed the official name of the church to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

Members are found throughout the world, with the largest number living in South Koreamarker or Japanmarker. Church membership is estimated to be several hundred thousand to a few million. The church and its members own, operate, and subsidize organizations and projects involved in political, cultural, commercial, media, educational, and other activities. The church, its members and supporters as well as other related organizations are sometimes referred to as the "Unification Movement." In the English speaking world church members are sometimes referred to as "Moonies," (which is sometimes considered offensive) church members prefer to be called "Unificationists".

Unification Church beliefs are summarized in the textbook Divine Principle and include belief in a universal God; in striving toward the creation of a literal Kingdom of Heaven on earth; in the universal salvation of all people, good and evil, living and dead; and that a man born in Korea in the early 20th century received from Jesus the mission to be realized as the second coming of Christ. Members of the Unification Church believe this Messiah is Sun Myung Moon.


Unification Church members believe that Jesus appeared to Mun Yong-myong (his birth name) when Moon was 16, and asked him to accomplish the work left unfinished after his crucifixion. After a period of prayer and consideration, Moon accepted the mission, later changing his name to Mun Son-myong (Sun Myung Moon).

The beginnings of the church's official teachings, the Divine Principle, first saw written form as Wolli Wonbon in 1946. (The second, expanded version, Wolli Hesol, or Explanation of the Divine Principle, was not published until 1957; for a more complete account, see Divine Principle.) Sun Myung Moon preached in northern Korea after the end of World War II and was imprisoned by the communist regime in North Korea in 1946. He was released from prison, along with many other North Koreansmarker, with the advance of American and United Nations forces during the Korean War and built his first church from mud and cardboard boxes as a refugee in Pusanmarker.

Moon formally founded his organization in Seoulmarker on May 1, 1954, calling it "The Holy Spirit(ual) Association for the Unification of World Christianity." The name alludes to Moon's stated intention for his organization to be a unifying force for all Christian denominations. The phrase "Holy Spirit Association" has the sense in the original Korean of "Heavenly Spirits" and not the "Holy Spirit" of Christianity. "Unification" has political as well as religious connotations, in keeping with the church's teaching that restoration must be complete, both spiritual and physical. The church expanded rapidly in South Korea and by the end of 1955 had 30 church centers throughout the nation.

In 1958, Moon sent missionaries to Japan, and in 1959, to America. Moon himself moved to the United States in 1971, (although he remained a citizen of the Republic of Koreamarker). Missionary work took place in Washington D.C.marker, New Yorkmarker, and Californiamarker. UC missionaries found success in the San Francisco Bay Areamarker, where the church expanded in Oaklandmarker, Berkeleymarker, and San Franciscomarker as the Creative Community Project. By 1971 the Unification Church of the United States had about 500 members. By 1973 the church had some presence in all 50 states and a few thousand members. In other countries church growth was slower. In 1997 the Unification Church of the United Kingdommarker had 350 members.

Irving Louis Horowitz compared the attraction of Unification teachings to American young people at this time to the hippie and radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s, saying:

"[Moon] has a belief system that admits of no boundaries or limits, an all-embracing truth. His writings exhibit a holistic concern for the person, society, nature, and all things embraced by the human vision. In this sense the concept underwriting the Unification church is apt, for its primary drive and appeal is unity, urging a paradigm of essence in an overly complicated world of existence. It is a ready-made doctrine for impatient young people and all those for whom the pursuit of the complex has become a tiresome and fruitless venture."

In 1974, Moon took full-page ads in major newspapers defending President Richard M. Nixon at the height of the Watergate controversy.

In 1975, Moon sent out missionaries to 120 countries to spread the Unification Church around the world and also in part, he said, to act as "lightning rods" to receive "persecution."

In the 1970s Moon gave a series of public speeches in the United states including one in Madison Square Gardenmarker in New York Citymarker in 1974 and two in 1976: In Yankee Stadiummarker in New York Citymarker, and on the grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.marker, where Moon spoke on "God's Hope for America."

Starting in the 1960s the Unification Church was the subject of a number of books published in the United States and the United Kingdom, both scholarly and popular. Among the better-known are: The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? (1984) by British sociologist Eileen Barker, Inquisition : The Persecution and Prosecution of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon (1991) by American journalist Carlton Sherwood, and In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family (1998) by Nansook Hong, Moon's former daughter-in-law.

In 1978, the Fraser Committee a subcommittee of the United States Congress which was investigating the political influence of the South Korean government in the United States issued a report that included the results of its investigation into the Unification Church and other organizations associated with Moon and their relationship with the South Korean government. Among its other conclusions, the subcommittee's report stated that "Among the goals of the Moon Organization is the establishment of a worldwide government in which the separation of church and state would be abolished and which would be governed by Moon and his followers."

In 1982 Moon was convicted of tax fraud and conspiracy in United States federal court and was sentenced 18 months in federal prison.

In 1991 Moon announced that church members should return to their hometowns in order to undertake apostolic work there. Massimo Introvigne, who has studied the Unification Church and other new religious movements, has said that this confirms that full-time membership is no longer considered crucial to church members. In 1995 the church had about 700 members in the United Kingdommarker.

Starting in the 1990s the Unification Church expanded its operations into Russiamarker and other formerly communist nations. Moon's wife, Hak Ja Han, made a radio broadcast to the nation from the Kremlin Palace of Congressesmarker. In 1994 the church had about 5,000 members in Russia and came under criticism from the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1997, the Russian government passed a law requiring the Unification Church and other non-Russian religions to register their congregations and submit to tight controls. Starting in 1992 the church established business ties with still communist North Korea and owns a automobile factory, a hotel, and other properties there. In 2007 it founded a "World Peace Center" in Pyongyangmarker, North Korea's capital city.

In 2000, the Unification Church was one of the co-sponsors of the Million Family March in Washington, D.C.marker, along with Louis Farrakhan the leader of The Nation of Islam. Starting in 2007 the church sponsored a series of public events in various nations under the title Global Peace Festival.

In April 2008, Sun Myung Moon, then 88 years old, appointed his youngest son, Hyung Jin Moon, to be the new leader of the Unification Church and the worldwide Unification Movement, saying, "I hope everyone helps him so that he may fulfil his duty as the successor of the True Parents."

In January 2009, Unification Church missionary Elizaveta Drenicheva was sentenced to two years in jail in Kazakhstanmarker for "propagating harmful religious teachings." She was freed and allowed to leave the country after international human rights organizations expressed their concern over her case.

In April 2009 the British school system was criticized for including study of the Unification Church in proposed religious studies guidelines for British students.


The beliefs of the Unification Church are outlined in its textbook, Divine Principle.

God is viewed as the creator, whose nature combines both masculinity and femininity, and is the source of all truth, beauty, and goodness. Human beings and the universe reflect God's personality, nature, and purpose.

"Give-and-take action" (reciprocal interaction) and "subject and object position" (initiator and responder) are "key interpretive concepts", and the self is designed to be God's object. The purpose of human existence is to return joy to God. The "four-position foundation" is "another important and interpretive concept", and explains in part the emphasis on the family.

The Principle of Indemnity

Indemnity, as explained in the Divine Principle, is a part of the process by which human beings and the world are restored back to God's ideal.


The Unification Church upholds a belief in spiritualism, that is communication with the spirits of deceased persons. Moon and early church members associated with spiritualists, including the famous Arthur Ford. The Divine Principle says about Moon:
"For several decades he wandered through the spirit world so vast as to be beyond imagining. He trod a bloody path of suffering in search of the truth, passing through tribulations that God alone remembers. Since he understood that no one can find the ultimate truth to save humanity without first passing through the bitterest of trials, he fought alone against millions of devils, both in the spiritual and physical worlds, and triumphed over them all. Through intimate spiritual communion with God and by meeting with Jesus and many saints in Paradise, he brought to light all the secrets of Heaven."

The ancestor liberation ceremony is a ceremony of the Unification Church intended to allow the spirits of deceased ancestors of participants to improve their situations in the spirit world through liberation, education, and blessing. The ceremonies are conducted by Mrs. Hyo Nam Kim, whom church members believe is channeling the spirit of Dae Mo Nim, the mother of Hak Ja Han (church founder Sun Myung Moon's wife). They have taken place mainly in Cheongpyeong, South Koreamarker, but also in various places around the world.

In the 1990s and 2000s the Unification Church has made public statements claiming communications with the spirits of religious leaders such as Confucius, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and Augustine, as well as political leaders such as Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, Mao Zedong, and many more. This has distanced the church further from mainstream Christianity as well as from Islam.

Sex and marriage

The Unification Church is well-known for its marriage or marriage rededication ceremony, which is sometimes referred to by the news media and others as a "mass wedding." The Blessing ceremony was first held 1961 for 36 couples in Seoulmarker, South Koreamarker by Reverend and Mrs. Moon shortly after their own marriage in 1960. All the couples were members of the Unification Church. Rev. Moon matched all of the couples except 12 who were already married to each other from before joining the church.

Later Blessing ceremonies were larger in scale but followed the same pattern with all participants Unification Church members and Rev. Moon matching most of the couples. In 1982 the first large scale Blessing held outside of Korea took place in Madison Square Gardenmarker in New York Citymarker. In 1988, Moon matched 2,500 Korean members with Japanese members for a Blessing ceremony held in Korea, partly in order to promote unity between the two nations.

The Blessing ceremonies have attracted a lot of attention in the press and in the public imagination, often being labeled "mass weddings". However, in most cases the Blessing ceremony is not a legal wedding ceremony. Some couples are already married and those that are engaged are later legally married according to the laws of their own countries.

Several church-related groups are working to promote sexual abstinence until marriage and fidelity in marriage, both among church members and the general public.

The church does not give its marriage blessing to same-sex couples. Moon has spoken vehemently against "free sex" and homosexual activity. In talks to church members, he has compared people involved in free sex, including gay people, to "dirty dung-eating dogs" and prophesied that "gays will be eliminated" in a "purge on God's orders." These statements were criticized by gay rights groups.

South America

In the 1990s Moon directed church members to buy land in the Mato Grosso do Sul region of Brazilmarker, which he compared to the Garden of Eden. 200,000 acres of farmland was purchased and building projects started. In 2000 the church purchased 300,000 hectares of land in Paraguaymarker for the purpose of logging and timber exportation to Asia. The land is the ancestral territory of the indigenous Chamacoco (Ishir) people, who live in northern Paraguay. They have told local anthropologists that they wish to purchase the land back, because it is considered a sacred area in their shamanic belief system, but they do not have the capital to purchase the huge tracts back from the Unification Church members. This loss of land has been devastating to the Chamacoco people, who are traditional hunter-gatherers, and in return the church members have financed the construction of schools for them.

In May 2002, federal police in Brazil conducted a number of raids on organizations linked to Sun Myung Moon. In a statement, the police stated that the raids were part of a broad investigation into allegations of tax evasion and immigration violations by church members. Moon's support of the government of Argentinamarker during the Falklands War was also mentioned by commentators as a possible issue.

In 2009, the church gave 30,000 acres of land back to residents of Puerto Casado after a series of land disputes came before Paraguayan courts. It had acquired more than 1.48 million acres of land in 2000 for an environmental and tourism project in northern Paraguay.

Campaign to replace the Cross with a Crown

In 2003 Moon began his "tear down", or "take down the cross" campaign. The campaign was begun in the belief that the cross is a reminder of Jesus' pain and has been a source of division between people of different faiths. The campaign included a burial ceremony for the cross and a crown to be put in its place. The American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), an interfaith group founded by Moon, spearheaded the effort, calling the cross a symbol of oppression and superiority.

Unification Church member and theologian Andrew Wilson said, "The crucifixion was not something that God loves, but something that God hates. It hurts every time he sees people glorifying the cross, which was the instrument of execution used to kill his beloved son."

Michael Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Christian advocacy organization Concerned Women for America, responded: "Just imagine if some misguided Christian were to suggest that the Jews have to take away their symbol and the Muslims would have to take away their symbol, not display it in public any longer. That would be identified instantly as a statement of intolerance. Reconciliation and peace do not grow out of intolerance."

Related organizations

There are a number of organizations founded, run, or backed by church founder Sun Myung Moon.Among them are interfaith, educational, arts, sports, and political organizations as well as profit-making businesses. Commentators have mentioned Moon's belief in a literal Kingdom of Heaven on earth to be brought about by human effort as a motivation for his establishment of groups that are not strictly religious in their purposes. Others have said that one purpose of these groups is to pursue social respectability for the church.


Cult status

The Unification Church is among the most controversial religious organizations in the world today. In response to doubt regarding the organization's religious origins, Frederick Sontag, a professor of philosophy, concluded that "one thing is sure: the church has a genuine spiritual basis" after an 11-month study of the worldwide Unification Church. A German court made a similar finding.

Use of money

Critics also allege irregularities in the use of money and claim that the church has enriched Moon personally. The Moon family situation is described as one of "luxury and privilege" and has been referred to as "lavish."

Nansook Hong, who lived with the Moon family for 14 years, describes the Unification Church as "a cash operation" and reports on a number of incidents of questionable movement of money, citing this instance as one example: "The Japanese had no trouble bringing the cash into the United States; they would tell customs agents that they were in America to gamble at Atlantic City. In addition, many businesses run by the church were cash operations, including several Japanese restaurants in New York City. I saw deliveries of cash from church headquarters that went directly into the wall safe in Mrs. Moon's closet."

Allegations of fraud

In the 1990s, thousands of Japanese elderly people claimed to have been defrauded of their life savings by church members. The Unification Church was the subject of the largest consumer fraud investigation in Japan's history in 1997 and number of subsequent court decisions awarded hundreds of millions of yen in judgments, including 37.6 million yen ($300,000) to two women coerced into donating their assets to the Unification Church. In 2009 the president of the Unification Church of Japan, Eiji Tokuno, resigned after the church was raided, and some church members were arrested and indicted, for a scam involving selling expensive personal seals, telling people that failure to buy would bring bad fortune.

Recruitment and allegations of brainwashing

In the United States in the 1970s, the media reported on the high-pressure recruitment methods of Unificationists and said that the church separated vulnerable young people from their families through the use of brainwashing or mind control. In 1979, Dr. Byron Lambert, in a foreword to a book highly critical of Unification Church beliefs, wrote that accusations of brainwashing were extremely dangerous to the religious freedom of other religious groups, which used some of the same recruitment techniques as the Unification Church. Eileen Barker, a sociologist specializing in religious topics, studied church members in England and in 1984 published her findings in her book The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? Observing Unificationists' approach to prospective new members, Barker came to reject a strict interpretation of the "brainwashing" theory as an explanation for conversion to the Unification Church. Nor did she find the Unification Church's methods of recruiting members to be very effective. In 1985 Anson Shupe, a sociologist who is considered a leading expert on cults and new religious movements, told Time: "What the Moonies do is ludicrous. Most people who go through that experience with them walk away later."

Political activities

See: Unification Church political activities

The Unification Church has been criticized for its political activities, especially its support for United States president Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, its support for anti-communism during the Cold War, and its ownership of various news media outlets, especially the Washington Times, which tend to support conservatism.

Reports of children conceived out of wedlock

In her 1998 book In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family, Nansook Hong-- ex-wife of Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han's eldest son, Hyo Jin Moon-- said that both Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han told her about Sun Myung Moon's extramarital affairs (which she said he called "providential affairs"), including one which resulted in the birth of a boy raised by a church leader, named by Sun Myung Moon's daughter Un Jin Moon on the news show 60 Minutes.

In 1993, Chung Hwa Pak released the book Roku Maria no Higeki (Tragedy of the Six Marys) through the Koyu Publishing Co. of Japan. The book contained allegations that Moon conducted sex rituals amongst six married female disciples ("The Six Marys") who were to have prepared the way for the virgin who would marry Moon and become the True Mother. Chung Hwa Pak had left the movement when the book was published and later withdrew the book from print when he rejoined the Unification Church. Before his death Chung Hwa Pak published a second book, The Apostate, and recanted all allegations made in Roku Maria no Higeki.

Accusations of antisemitism

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) released a report on antisemitism in in 1976, centers on passages found in Divine Principle, the church's basic text, stating that it contained "pejorative language, stereotyped imagery, and accusations of collective sin and guilt." In a news conference consisting of the AJC, and representatives of Catholic and Protestant churches, panelists stated that the text 'contained over 125 anti-Semitic references.' The panelists noted Moon's public recent condemnation of "anti Semitism and anti-Christian attitudes", and called upon him to make a "comprehensive and systematic removal" of antisemitic and anti-Christian references in Divine Principle as a demonstration of good faith.

In 1977 the Unification Church issued a rebuttal to the report, stating that it was neither comprehensive nor reconciliatory, but was rather had a "hateful tone" and was filled with "sweeping denunciations." It denied that Divine Principle teaches antisemitism and gave detailed responses to 17 specific allegations contained in the AJC's report.

Leo Sandon Jr. wrote in Theology Today in 1978 supporting the AJC's charge of antisemitism in Unification Church teachings, but noted that the church argued that this resulted from "Korean ignorance of Jewish sensitivities". He stated that he was more troubled by the "unmistakable anti-semitism" of "a highly placed and veteran Korean Moonist".

The Unification Church explanation for the Holocaust, that its victims were paying indemnity for the crucifixion of Jesus, has been reported in a number of sources, including in the official record of the parliament of the United Kingdommarker. Some commentators, including David G. Bromley, a sociologist and expert on New Religious Movements, have suggested that this is a reason for the church being "considered anti-Semitic".

In 2003, journalist John Gorenfeld criticized the Anti Defamation League (ADL) in an article in Salon Magazine for its silence on antisemitic statements by members of the Unification Church, in contrast to the its outspoken criticism of the Nation of Islam and other groups.

Use of term 'moonie'

Moonie (plural Moonies) is a term which refers to members of the Unification Church; it is derived from the name of church founder Sun Myung Moon. Some dictionaries call it offensive or derogatory; others do not. It has been used by critics of the church since the 1970s. Church members have used the term, including Sun Myung Moon, President of the Unification Theological Seminary David Kim, and Moon's aide Bo Hi Pak. Members of the Unification Church have stated that they currently prefer the term "Unificationists". It has seen usage in languages including English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese, and according to Religion and Politics In America Unification Church followers are "universally known, often derisively" by the term.

Future church leadership

Observers of the Unification Church, as well as some church members, have speculated about the issue of Unification Church leadership after Moon's death. Among those sometimes mentioned are his wife Hak Ja Han Moon, and their sons Hyun Jin Moon and Hyung Jin Moon. In 2001, Moon said:
"I have to set up a representative or successor before I can complete this mission. Is there anyone? Rev. Kwak? Dr. Bo Hi Pak? Is there? No, not one is qualified."

In 2009 the BBC reported on recent changes in the Unification Church and concluded that: "...Unificationism has a long way to go before it is simply regarded as one religion among many."


See also

Annotated bibliography

  • Durst, Mose. 1984. To bigotry, no sanction: Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church. Chicago: Regnery Gateway. ISBN 9780895266095
  • Sontag, Frederick. 1977. Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church. Nashville, Tenn: Abingdon Press. ISBN 9780687406227
  • Fichter, Joseph Henry. 1985. The holy family of father Moon. Kansas City, Mo: Leaven Press. ISBN 9780934134132
  • Gullery, Jonathan. 1986. The Path of a pioneer: the early days of Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church. New York: HSA Publications. ISBN 9780910621502
  • Sherwood, Carlton. 1991. Inquisition : The Persecution and Prosecution of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway. ISBN 9780895265326
  • Biermans, J. 1986, The Odyssey of New Religious Movements, Persecution, Struggle, Legitimation: A Case Study of the Unification Church Lewiston, New York and Queenston, Ontario: The Edwin Melton Press ISBN 0889467102
  • Bryant, M. Darrol, and Herbert Warren Richardson. 1978. A Time for consideration: a scholarly appraisal of the Unification Church. New York: E. Mellen Press. ISBN 9780889469549
  • Ward, Thomas J. 2006. March to Moscow: the role of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon in the collapse of communism. St. Paul, Minn: Paragon House. ISBN 9781885118165
  • Barker, Eileen, The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? (1984) Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, UK ISBN 0-631-13246-5.
  • Chryssides, George D., The Advent of Sun Myung Moon: The Origins, Beliefs and Practices of the Unification Church (1991) London, Macmillan Professional and Academic Ltd. The author is professor of religious studies at the University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom.
  • Hong, Nansook, In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family. Little Brown & Company; ISBN 0-316-34816-3; (August 1998). The book is written by the ex-wife of Hyo Jin Moon, Reverend Moon's son (to whom she was married, handpicked by Moon, at 15 years of age) and details various abuses she says she suffered from members of the Moon family.
  • Introvigne, M., 2000, The Unification Church, Signature Books, ISBN 1560851457
  • Lofland, John, Doomsday Cult: A Study of Conversion, Proselytization, and Maintenance of Faith first published Prentice Hall, c/o Pearson Ed, 1966. Reprinted Ardent Media, U.S. ISBN 0-8290-0095-X
  • Matczak, Sebastian, Unificationism: A New Philosophy and World View (Philosophical Questions Series, No 11) (1982) New York: Louvain. The author is a professor of philosophy and a Catholic priest. He taught at the Unification Theological Seminary.
  • Tingle, D. and Fordyce, R. 1979, Phases and Faces of the Moon: A Critical Examination of the Unification Church and its Principles, Hicksville, NY: Exposition Press ISBN 0682492647
  • Wright, Stuart A., Leaving Cults: The Dynamics of Defection, published by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion: Monograph Series nr. 7 1987 ISBN 0-932566-06-5 (Contains interviews with ex-members of three groups, among others the Unification Church)
  • Yamamoto, J. Isamu, 1995, Unification Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House ISBN 0310703816

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