WestHawaiiToday.com, Aug. 18, 2002
By BOBBY COMMAND/ West Hawaii Today
The controversial Unification Church plan to establish a North Kona boarding high school continues to stir concerns in the West Hawaii community.
A non – denominational Waikoloa Community Church is distancing itself from its pastor’s involvement with the Pacific Rim Education Foundation (PREF), which has assembled a development team to plan the High School of the Pacific in Puukala, about a mile north of Kona Palisades.
Jamal F. Wasan, Ph.D., president of the 75 – member Waikoloa Community Church council, has questioned the involvement of its pastor, Rev. Sam Masilamoney, as a member of the development team.
But the president of PREF, a 501c3 tax deductible organization, said the facility will not be a religious school, but a secular private school that will stress moral values. “Frankly, that’s something that is missing in our public schools today,” Joe Tully said.
In addition, Tully, who is a 30 – year member of the Unification Church, said Masilamoney and many of the other members of the planning team are not affiliated with the movement. Masilamoney was not available for comment. He is not listed in the telephone directory and did not return messages left on his pager Friday.
The concern by the Waikoloa church follows a flurry of letters to the editor published in West Hawaii Today concerning the involvement of the Unification Church and its leader, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, in the financing of the school.
Members of the church have been referred to as “Moonies,” but the church considers the term derogatory and prefers the term “Unificationists.”
Wasan said Waikoloa Community Church does not recognize Masilamoney’s involvement in the planning for the high school.
“This does not represent our church in anyway,” Wasan said. “We consider the Unification Church to be false and against the Christian gospel we choose to follow, which is the acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as our lord and savior.”
Tully said the High School of the Pacific will stress common values and support parents in their efforts to raise moral children. He said the school will welcome students of all faiths, cultures and ethnic backgrounds.
The Unification Church claims a U.S. membership of about 50,000 and about 3 million worldwide, although critics say those numbers are inflated.
Church literature describes the Unification movement as family centered and seeking world peace, but critics call it a “cult” because of its involvement in mass weddings, supposed brainwashing recruitment and members’ belief that Moon is the Messiah.