Disciple of leader admits trio didn’t help host event
WASHINGTON — A top disciple of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon conceded Wednesday that the group did not have clear permission to list three prominent Utahns as helping host a dinner where Moon proclaimed himself the Messiah.
The concession was an about-face from claims made earlier in the day that Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, state Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, and businessman Stephen Covey fibbed in denying they were not host committee members for the March 23 event, where Moon was dressed in a gold crown and royal robes as a king of peace.
When the Utahns cried foul, the Moon officials changed their story.
“Though we did not intend to misuse the names of any of our friends, we did not communicate properly,” the Rev. Michael Jenkins, president of Moon’s Family Federation for World Peace and Unification USA, said in a written statement.
Earlier in the day Moon allies called a National Press Club press conference to address what they said were press distortions of the event. Jenkins said that the Utahns initially gave permission for use of their names but then later denied it to the press amid mounting political pressure.
“They had been actually co-sponsors of many events. And as far as we understood, we had the full support to go forward with this event. We honor them and thank them for their support, but we also believe that the heat got too hot,” Jenkins said.
Archbishop George Augustus Stallings Jr., founder of the Imani Temple African-American Catholic Church and co-chair with Jenkins of a Moon peace group that sponsored the dinner, also said at the press conference that dinner sponsors contacted everyone listed in its program and obtained permission to use their names.
“That’s not accurate,” said Meghan Riding, press secretary for Cannon.
“Somebody did call and talk to our scheduler (about being a dinner sponsor). She said she did not have the authority to allow that to happen, and said, ‘We’ll have to get back to you.’ They took that as a yes, but clearly it was not. A yes was never given,” Riding said.
Also contrary to Jenkins’ assertion, she said Cannon never sponsored or gave permission for use of his name for any Moon-related event. She said he did attend a February dinner where Stephenson was given an award. “He attended it, but that does not mean he was a co-sponsor,” she said.
Likewise, Stephenson and Covey spokeswoman Debra Lund said those two never gave permission for use of their names as host committee members for the March 23 event.
Lund said Covey did give permission to use his name for a February awards ceremony but does not endorse the later Moon actions, nor does he consider Moon the Messiah. Stephenson said he did not give permission for use of his name for any Moon-group event.
Also, Cannon and Covey did not attend the March 23 dinner. Stephenson did (and even presented one of the peace awards given there) but said he walked out when it became more of a religious ceremony. He said he did not want his presence construed as support.
After Cannon, Stephenson and Covey were contacted for response by the Deseret Morning News, they all said they called Moon’s organizations to complain about Jenkins’ comments. That led to a written “clarification” later by Jenkins.
Jenkins said the three were on the “invitational committee” for a February awards dinner that was moved at the last minute off Capitol Hill because of a ricin scare. Cannon and Stephenson deny they were on such a committee, although they attended that dinner.
Jenkins said because the program and attendance were limited, a “second stage” of awards was scheduled for the next month at the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
“Although we considered the March program a continuance of the awards process, and considered the invitational committee still in place, there was apparently confusion in the process of reorganizing, communicating and confirming effectively to all involved,” Jenkins’ clarification said.
“We believe that the broad, interreligious nature of the March 23rd event would not have been a cause for controversy had it not been misrepresented in the media,” he said. “We certainly never implied any religious commitment or affiliation on the part of any of our invitational committee.”
At the March 23 dinner, Moon said that in the spirit world, Marx, Lenin, Hitler and Stalin found strength in his teachings and have been reborn. He said they and saints proclaim that “Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.” He then received the crown and robes.
Jenkins said Wednesday, “I affirm that he is the Messiah, the Savior and returning Lord who was anointed by Jesus to fulfill that mission. The term ‘Messiah’ means anointed one, and it is an anointing that comes from Heaven. Therefore, Rev. Moon is not God and he is not Jesus, but a man anointed by God.”
A variety of other Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergy appeared at the press conference to praise Moon — some also declaring him as the Messiah or a heaven-sent messenger — and said reports of the March 23 ceremony have been distorted. They said it mainly was to give awards to honor people from all 50 states who have been working for world peace.
Former Rep. Howard Nielsen, R-Utah, was among recipients. He too, however, has said he was surprised by Moon’s comments and “coronation,” and does not endorse them.