The head of the church that breaks up families is facing a chorus of calls for his deportation as he arrived in Britain today.
The leader of the Moonie cult is to use his visit to London to make the claim that he is really an ‘ambassador for peace’ who is concerned with ‘the promotion of loving families’. But critics and MPs said he is dangerous and should be sent straight back to his home in the US.
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Mr Clarke’s decision to overturn a longstanding exclusion order against Moon will allow him to deliver a speech in London aimed at the ‘rehabilitation of his reputation’.
In 1981, a milestone legal victory against the cult established that the Mail was right to condemn it as ‘the church that breaks up families’. In 1978 the organisation called itself the Unification Church. But since the mid-1990s, it has been known in Britain as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.
Powerbase in US
Moon is understood to have been granted permission to stay for 24 hours. He is speaking to an audience of 1,300 in a ‘private’ appearance.
The visa is a notable victory for the cult leader, who since the Mail’s libel success has failed to build up the kind of powerbase in Britain that he has managed in the US, where he owns the Washington Times newspaper and the UPI news agency.
Moon, 86, was ordered to stay out by Tory Home Secretary Michael Howard in 1995 and by David Blunkett in 2003 when he held the post.
But Mr Clarke decided that “the Unification Church in the United Kingdom is extremely small and any visit by its founder is considered unlikely to pose any threat to the public order of this country”.
The Home Secretary said: “I considered excluding him but I decided that at his age there was not a good enough reason.”
But Ian Haworth, of the Cult Information Centre, said: “In April 1981, the Daily Mail successfully proved that this organisation broke up families and brainwashed young people – what has changed?
“Mr Moon is still the head of the organisation and the problems still exist, the only real difference is he is probably a lot richer. This is a huge mistake.”
Audrey Chaytor of FAIR – Family Action, Information and Resource, which was set up to help families damaged by the Moonies – said: “He should be thrown straight back out of the country. It is unbelievable that Mr Clarke thinks the Moonies are no longer a threat.”
‘The Government will allow anyone in’
Tory MP Julian Brazier said: “This is another example of the way the Government is willing to allow just about anybody into the country, no matter what harm they might do the public.
“They let in Islamic extremists, repulsive rappers who advocate violence, and this is one more example in the same vein. The visa should be revoked.”
Moonie spokesman Robin Marsh issued a statement which said: “Part of the reason for the Home Secretary’s decision was that the Reverend Moon’s visit was supported strongly by many of this nation’s top religious leaders who have seen at first hand the great benefits that Reverend Moon’s work for world peace has brought in the Middle East and elsewhere.”
However, the Church of England said no leading figure had given any backing to Moon, while the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales said none of its leading clerics had given any support to Moon.
Moon, who launched his organisation in 1954, has enjoyed a lucrative if chequered career. He was jailed in the US in 1982 for failing to pay tax.
He has attempted to win influence in Britain by buying support since the Mail’s libel victory interrupted the flow of recruits.
Last year, Moon staged a ritual in the US in which he announced: “Emperors, kings and presidents have declared to all heaven and earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s saviour, messiah, returning Lord and true parent.”
Sidebar: How Mail Exposed the Brainwashers
The Moonies’ empire in Britain crumbled 24 years ago after the Daily Mail won an historic libel victory over ‘the church that breaks up families’.
When the cult sued the paper, the case lasted 100 days as 117 witnesses appeared in support of our efforts to expose the way the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and his followers recruited, brainwashed and exploited the vulnerable young.
In the aftermath of the Mail’s vindication by the libel jury, half the Moonies’ membership in Britain fled the country for the U.S. So Moon’s organisation never built up the network of support in this country that has made it so powerful in America and elsewhere in the world.
The saga began in 1978, when the Mail published an investigation by reporter Brian Park into what then called itself the Unification Church.
It revealed how the cult sucked in impressionable young potential converts, brainwashed them with techniques like ‘love bombing’ and sleep deprivation and then pulled them away from their families, preventing them from making contact and hiding them at secret locations.
The Daily Mail’s then Editor, Sir David English, and its proprietor Viscount Rothermere, knew the Moonies would respond by using their wealth to try to silence criticism through the courts. But they took the risk and published.
After the verdict on April 1, 1981, Moon’s organisation was ordered to pay the unprecedented sum of Pounds 750,000 in costs and the Government ordered a review of the church’s activities but did not end its charitable status. In 1983, the Unification Church lost an appeal against the libel verdict.