Row as ‘cult’ leader prepares to fly in: Critics slam ‘Messiah’
The leader of the Moonies is due to land in Britain today after the Government lifted a ban on letting him into the country.
And as usual, controversy will follow self-styled Messiah Sun Myung Moon wherever he goes.
To his followers in the Unification Church, Moon is the father of all humanity, a man who will outdo Christ himself by uniting all religions under his leadership.
But the charismatic 86-year-old Korean has often been portrayed as the leader of a dangerous cult.
Critics have accused Moon of brainwashing young recruits, fleecing his flock to line his own pockets, and making a mockery of the institution of marriage.
In 1995, then Home Secretary Michael Howard banned Moon from visiting Britain.
However, an immigration tribunal ruled recently that there was no longer any reason to keep him out.
And this week, current Home Secretary Charles Clarke defended his decision to let Moon in.
He said: “I considered excluding him but I decided that at his age there was not enough reason.”
A Home Office spokesman added: “The Unification Church in the United Kingdom is extremely small and any visit from its founder is now considered unlikely to present any threat to public order.”
Moon has been granted a 24-hour visa. He plans to use it to address a conference in London, giving his view of the path to world peace.
His wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, is expected to accompany him.
Critics of the Moonies are astounded by the decision to admit Moon. Ian Haworth, General Secretary of the Cult Information Centre, said: “This makes no sense. Mr Moon hasn’t changed, nor has his organisation.”
Moon claims Jesus spoke to him on a hillside in Korea when he was 16 and asked him to complete his works on earth. In 1954, he founded the body that was to become the Unification Church.
At its peak, the movement had 500,000 members worldwide. But numbers have dwindled after years of bad publicity.
The biggest blow to the Moonies in Britain came in 1981, when the Daily Mail branded them “the church that breaks up families” and accused them of brainwashing converts The Moonies, who have always denied brainwashing, sued for libel and lost heavily. A jury awarded the Mail a record-breaking ?750,000 in costs.
In 1982, Moon was jailed for 18 months in America for tax evasion. And many critics claim he is far more concerned with making money than spreading the word of God.
The Unification Church has massive business interests and controls hundreds of companies worldwide.
Moon’s enemies say he has built his business empire while many of his “children” in the church live in poverty.
One former highly ranked Moonie said: “This is not just a religion. I may have started from spiritual experiences, but now money is a deep priority.”
Again, the Moonies angrily deny such claims, but the “Messiah” is certainly not short of wealth. He lives in luxury and plans to fly to Britain in his private jet.
The Unification Church’s huge reserves of cash have made it something of a force in American politics.
The Moonies have used their financial muscle to promote their conservative beliefs, and Moon is still remembered for backing Richard Nixon at the time of Watergate.
But he insists he has no political ambitions.
Moon is famous for organising mass weddings of his followers, where thousands of pairs of strangers are married off in single ceremonies. In the church’s heyday, Moon paired off the couples personally.
Other religious groups have condemned the mass weddings as a travesty of Christian marriage. But Moonie believers feel that they are proving the strength of their faith by agreeing to take part.
Moon strongly promotes celibacy before marriage and fidelity after it.
But he himself has been married at least twice. And several authors have accused him of bedding a string of women and fathering a number of illegitimate children