SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah politicians said they were surprised to find their names listed as co-hosts of a Washington, D.C., event that wound up honoring the controversial religious leader, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
“I was on no committee and had nothing to do with the planning of the event,” said state Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper.
“The congressman was not at the event,” said Joe Hunter, chief of staff for Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah. “He somehow ended up being listed as one of the co-hosts without our knowledge or consent.”
The event in question was a seminar focusing on peace in the Middle East held March 23 by Moon’s Washington Times Foundation.
The event invitation did not mention Moon, his Unification Church or any religious affiliation whatsoever, nor did it state that there would be an appearance by Moon, who calls himself a messiah and is known for conducting mass weddings.
After most lawmakers had left, Moon reportedly was wheeled out on stage and crowned; he proclaimed, “I am God’s ambassador, sent to Earth with his full authority.”
Stephenson said he was caught off guard by “the twist of what happened” when the event turned religious, and he left.
“I think most people were surprised,” he said.
As a Mormon, Stephenson said he was uncomfortable at such an outward gesture toward someone who wasn’t Gordon B. Hinckley, the president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I didn’t want to imply that I supported their beliefs about Rev. Moon or his theology, so I left,” Stephenson said.
Asked if Cannon endorsed Moon’s beliefs, Hunter replied: “Absolutely not.”
Stephenson said elected officials often are invited to such events as the Middle East seminar that preceded the Moon crowning.
“Some are interesting and even unusual but this is the most unusual I have ever seen,” he said. “I don’t plan on attending anything like that ever again.”
The event went largely unnoticed until an Internet site this week reported Moon’s crowning with the apparent help of several members of Congress.
A spokeswoman for the Salt Lake City-based Franklin-Covey Co. did not return a phone message left Friday by The Associated Press.
Similar messages left by the AP with Moon’s Washington Times Foundation and Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace also were not returned.