Today, the SU Senate voted to recognize a club that essentially is a college-level chapter of the Unification Church movement.

The Unification Church is a new age religion, called a cult by some, founded by a man named Sun Myung Moon in 1954. He claims to have seen Jesus Christ in a vision, who charged Moon with completing his work and unifying all sects of Christianity into a single moral force. The Church’s primary goal is this unification, and the promotion of heterosexual family units through arranged marriage.

In very large part, the Unification Church is driven by Moon, who is revered with near-prophetic worship by the Church’s members (those outside the organization often call its members Moonies for this reason). Moon is a very incendiary figure, a megalomaniac who somehow managed to book a Senate office building on Capitol Hill to crown himself the Messiah. He has stated,

“Emperors, kings and presidents . . . have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.”

Moon has been convicted of tax evasion, and served 18 months in prison. Using money he accrued through his prosletizing, he built a media corporate empire, and is currently the owner of the Washington Times and several companies in the US and Korea.

Though the Church claims to seek world peace, that desired peace is one of a theocracy led by Moon. Moon has repeatedly made homophobic and xenophobic remarks: A few years ago, he said during a sermon,

Jewish people, you have to repent. Jesus was the King of Israel. Through the principle of indemnity Hitler killed 6 million Jews. That is why. God could not prevent Satan from doing that because Israel killed the True Parents. Even now, you have to determine that you will repent and follow and become one with Christianity through Rev. Moon.

Moon has also made repeated homophobic remarks, calling homosexuals “dirty dung-eating dogs.”

This evening, a club calling itself College Association for the Research of Principles, the college-level branch of the Unification movement, came to the Senate to seek recognition. The Club’s purpose stated,

The vision of CARP is to create a culture of peace on college campuses by upholding the ideal of “One family under God,” as explained in Divine Principle, which summarize the teachings of the Unification Movement, written by Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1957.

Several Senators, including Nathan Robinson and myself, were adamently opposed to the recognition of this club. Though the two women representing the group seemed like good people, and swore they would never spread any kind of homophobia or other hate, I felt that Brandeis still should not legitimize nor officially recognize a club directly linked to the intolerant, cultish Unification Church. Others felt that as long as the club members themselves did not discriminate in their membership or actively spread hate speech, it should receive the same recognition as do other campus religious groups, be they Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or otherwise. Before the vote, I wrote a short speech summarizing my thoughts (which I never got the chance to read, though I addressed its points earlier in the discussion):

I am not voting against this because I want to silence the voices of these individuals before us. I believe the merits of particular organizations can and should be openly discussed, no matter how controversial their views. Yet that does not mean we need give them Union government recognition. There is one thing that should not be tolerated at Brandeis, and that is intolerance. By recognizing this group, inherently linked to the Unification Church, we are promoting intolerance. Brandeis has many great groups already working to create a culture of peace. Working under the auspices of such an intolerant cult of personality as the Unification Church is not the way to go about that. The two women who came in front of us seem like great people who truly care about the world, and that makes this difficult. But the organization they represent, and its leader, is not, and it does not merit the recognition of Brandeis nor any other body which believes itself to uphold the ideal of social justice.

The two women claimed their religion was being missrepresented and their beliefs were not being respected. In the end, the Senate recognized the club with five voting against. Right? Wrong? What do you think?

UPDATE:

There has been some great discussion going on in the comments. I would particularly like to draw attention to Jon’s comment (#10):

While we may label the Moonies a cult – and for good reason – as Adam points out, the content of their beliefs is not wildly crazier than that of any other religious group on campus. I think that reducing this issue to a question of tolerance won’t get us anywhere, because we would be mired in the complexities of tolerating an intolerant group, a sticking point which is always the case when dealing with religious or ideological groups.

A better approach, I think, would be to ask whether or not this group has acted in any way contrary to University policy. Have they, or will they, be engaging in hate speech, or the like? The question of illegal action seems like a much better measure than trying to assess and ideologically validate the content of this group’s beliefs. If this were the yardstick, we could simply watch the group to see if they engage in hateful, illegal activities, and then proceed to illegitimate them.

The great benefit of this is that we could apply this measure to a wide range of clubs. Adherents to Christian, Jewish, and Muslim beliefs are often at odds with the Brandeis spirit, but their clubs on campus comply with university policy – they are LGBTQ-friendly, etc. Singling out the Moonies based on their belief system is unfair to them, and could prevent us from taking action against “protected” mainstream groups were they to engage in illegal activity.

After thinking it through, I agree with him (with a few nuances). See my comment (#12) for a more careful explanation of why.

And yes, perhaps all this talk is making a big deal out of a little something. But its an important philosophical question that was brought up yesterday, and I thought it deserved more thought.

22 comments on “SU Senate votes to recognize Unificationist club – good or bad idea?”

  1. michelle gilbrit Says:

    Hi,

    I do agree with you. I personally think the moonies are a crazy cult.. but to others it is a religion, it is their religion.

    who am i, you, or the senate to define what is a religion and what is not a religion?

    and because it is a religion, it does deserve tolernance..
    though i am shocked and appaled by some of their religious convinctions..

    religious tolerance consists of valuing the right of another person to hold beliefs that you know absolutely, and without a doubt, to be wrong…

    brandeis was built on religious tolerance and non-secularism.

  2. Sahar Says:

    Without getting too deeply into the merits of the case, I recommend people read “Repressive Tolerance,” by Herbert Marcuse (which he dedicated, appropriately enough, to his students at Brandeis).

  3. Alex Norris Says:

    If, after my preliminary skimming of Marcuse, I am correct in saying he advocates for a tolerance that excludes those ideas which simply promote the repressive status quo, I can see how that would apply to the Senate’s toleration of the Unification Church. However, I have yet to hear a single argument that convinces me the Unification Church is any different from other, more mainstream religions. In fact, I tend to think of the term “cult” as something religious people made up to make us forget that the ridiculous people drinking Kool-Aid are making similar claims to the ones drinking god-blood. In any event, if we want to get into a de-recognition of religious clubs, lets get into that debate, but to not tolerate the Moonies and tolerate, say…the Jews because the Jews have been around longer is the ultimate defense of the status quo.

  4. Ari Says:

    It is a shame that this group now has a voice. It is one of the great flaws of a democratic system: it enfranchises those who wish to disenfranchise others. It gives voice to the man who wishes to silence others. In another wonderful display of gross incompetence our student union has deliciously demonstrated their patent inability to discern. They simply are unable to comprehend the difference between better and worse options. The Union clearly selected the worse of choices (allowing this club to have a voice, and allowing this club to gain access to funds). I am thankful the Union does not have any real power, nor are they responsible for making any kinds of decisions that carried any weight. The sad thing is I am almost certain that those in power get their start in university government.

  5. Sahar Says:

    Ari, the club is recognized, not chartered. This means they have a spot on the union website, can make posters and fliers, and have a seat at those club fairs that happen at the beginning of every semester.

  6. mommadona Says:

    The Unification Church is connected quite closely with the whole Bush family-George H W Bush and his son Neil have been long-time/and well compensated ‘spokesman’ for Reverend Moon. They even own adjoining properties together down in Paraguay.

    Google and learn.
    This is a cult, now run by Moon’s son who’s been a noted international gun dealer.

    Great company, our former President keeps.

  7. correction Says:

    there was one absentation

  8. Lev Says:

    I’m still unsure of how I feel. I voted against the recognition of this club because I have a lot of fears about it.

    From minimal research, its clear that the Unification Church is more than just a religion. I think the term ‘cult’ is a pretty loaded term, but when it looks like a ‘religion’ is dangerous, to both its own members and to others, then maybe the word ‘cult’ is appropriate. And maybe we shouldn’t be encouraging Brandeis students to get involved.

    Had a club come forward “Confederate Culture Club,” or something along those lines, I would have been equally uncomfortable.

    Another issue I had, Avi asked them if they proselytized. A big issue for Jews. Their answer, I found, rather sketchy. They said something along the lines of “well, part of our beliefs is to bring everyone into the family, but we wouldn’t call it proselytizing.” One of my worries is that in recognizing this club, we have made it easier for them to promote their religion (or cult) to Brandeis students, which may not be the best idea.

    As I said, I’m not sure what the right course of action. Maybe I’m being intolerant for thinking its a bad idea to give these guys official Brandeis recognition, I would have liked more time to decide.

  9. Adam Hughes Says:

    “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
    — Leviticus, 20:13

    Next to that, I’d say “dirty, dung-eating dogs” is positively tame. I guess we’re going to decharter Hillel now? And bad as Sun Myung Moon is, at least he wasn’t in the Hitler Youth, unlike Pope Benedict XVI. Brandeis Catholics, I guess you’re on notice.

    As soon as the Union tries to become an arbiter of spiritual morality, something’s gone wrong. Alex, I feel that your criticisms of Moon are very close to those levied against Bill Ayers. And this whole thing strikes me as a reheated version of the Students for Justice in Palestine fiasco last year. No, the Union shouldn’t be “encouraging” or “promoting” the Unification Church, or any other religion for that matter, but that’s not what recognition does. It merely gives the club some copies and allows them to reserve campus space — and fee assembly and free speech are definitely values that the Union should get behind, even when the message itself is controversial.

  10. Jon Says:

    While we may label the Moonies a cult – and for good reason – as Adam points out, the content of their beliefs is not wildly crazier than that of any other religious group on campus. I think that reducing this issue to a question of tolerance won’t get us anywhere, because we would be mired in the complexities of tolerating an intolerant group, a sticking point which is always the case when dealing with religious or ideological groups.

    A better approach, I think, would be to ask whether or not this group has acted in any way contrary to University policy. Have they, or will they, be engaging in hate speech, or the like? The question of illegal action seems like a much better measure than trying to assess and ideologically validate the content of this group’s beliefs. If this were the yardstick, we could simply watch the group to see if they engage in hateful, illegal activities, and then proceed to illegitimate them.

    The great benefit of this is that we could apply this measure to a wide range of clubs. Adherents to Christian, Jewish, and Muslim beliefs are often at odds with the Brandeis spirit, but their clubs on campus comply with university policy – they are LGBTQ-friendly, etc. Singling out the Moonies based on their belief system is unfair to them, and could prevent us from taking action against “protected” mainstream groups were they to engage in illegal activity.

  11. Avi Says:

    I Understand that their have been concerns on the restriction of this groups freedom of religion. I personally believe there is an inherent problem with this group that others do not posses. This problem is That the student union is recognizing a club that is part of a church that equates the holocaust with the fact that the Jews killed Jesus and is blatantly Anti-homosexual. while this club had many chances during the senate meeting to repudiate these beliefs they did not adequately do so. While we at Brandeis have many religious organizations most of them are for tolerance. For example Father Cuenin has been staunchly in favor of inclusion of Gays in Catholic services. And Brandeis Hillel recently brought a Gay Orthodox Jewish Rabbi. None of these groups discriminate against any of the many diverse communities at Brandeis. This however is not a standard of the Unification Church and from what I could ascertain this criticism is still valid to Carp as well. For this reason I personally believe that the group was a direct violation of Brandeis’ messages of Tolerance and Jewish sponsorship and I am shocked that so many of my senate brethren could sanction such a group.

  12. Loki Says:

    I think there is a difference between the Unification Church and, say, Catholicism. The Unification Church is largely a cult of personality around one living individual, who in my opinion aggressively mines his followers for money and has used that money (while committing massive tax fraud) to build up an opulent lifestyle for him and his family and a conservative propaganda empire promoting intolerance. Other religions have more interpretive leeway, with conflicting messages and no clear, unequivocal message of intolerance.

    Yet even as I write this, I concede the point made by michelle and others – who am I to make such a judgement? Surely, the arbitration of religious intolerance is a tricky business, and extending a judgement of the Moonies as a whole to an associated branch on campus (which I originally did in my vote) is pretty presumptuous. And as Alex and Adam pointed out, the same arguments of intolerance made against the Moonies can be made against other religious organizations, though their branches on campus may be very open-minded.

    After thinking this through, I am leaning towards agreement with Jon –

    A better approach, I think, would be to ask whether or not this group has acted in any way contrary to University policy. Have they, or will they, be engaging in hate speech, or the like? The question of illegal action seems like a much better measure than trying to assess and ideologically validate the content of this group’s beliefs. If this were the yardstick, we could simply watch the group to see if they engage in hateful, illegal activities, and then proceed to illegitimate them.

    In retrospect, I think I would have changed my vote, though I think this new Unificationist group, CARP, should be watched very closely. I wish we had had more time to think this through.

    But I do believe it was right to bring up some of the bigoted statements of Moon at the Senate meeting, and closely question the two women coming before us, no matter how uncomfortable it made them feel. If they choose to associate themselves with the Unification Church and glorify its leader, they need to be confronted with his bigoted statements and questioned on how they interpret them. The same goes for any group, religious or otherwise, tightly linked with intolerance. The Senate needs to know precisely what kind of group it is recognizing.

  13. Lev Says:

    I’m think I’m glad I voted the way I did, but more as a protest vote. I’d prefer to have been given more time on this. I think I would have felt very uncomfortable voting ‘no’ were it a closer vote.

  14. Loki Says:

    I don’t believe in the philosophy of protest votes. One should vote in the manner one believes correct, and the votes of others should not sway that vote. But if there is not enough time to think things through, the idea of what is correct cannot be fully delved into, especially in a complicated issue such as this. It is disappointing that it could not have been tabled for a week.

  15. Gideon Says:

    Loki, I’m glad to read that you would find tabling the correct measure. It’s what I would have hoped for any of the groups with violent and actively-intolerant sister-chapters at other schools wishing to be recognized at Brandeis. That goes for the Loonies and it goes for Students for Justice in Palestine. No senator should have to come out a day after a vote to say he wishes he could switch his vote based on what he’s learned in the intervening day. Year, maybe. Day? That’s certainly grounds for re-thinking how these votes are processed.

  16. Emily Says:

    This is not an issue of religious freedom. Disallowing CARP will not prevent anyone from practicing their religion. The club is not a group for Unificationists to network; if it were, I’d be uncomfortable with speaking against it. Quite the contrary: the club’s stated purpose is interfaith dialogue with a Unification twist: education about “one family under God” and “true love”, which, by the way, sound nice when interpreted as broad secular language, but mean something very specific within the church.

    Interfaith dialogue organizations should be secular. There’s already a secular club promoting religious pluralism on campus. Why can’t members of the Unification church discuss their beliefs and “educate” others with that group? Every religion should be given a chance to speak… I’m just opposed to chartering a blatant front organization, no matter what religion it’s fronting.

    The only thing that distinguishes CARP from the existing pluralism group is their desire to “educate” members about “one family under God”, which they also said was the only part of their group that could be called “proselytizing.” It’s clear to me why this group shouldn’t be chartered, and it has little to do with the contents of Unificationism.

  17. Alex Norris Says:

    Emily I understand your point, but I don’t think that the club is a front. I think the express purpose of the Unification church is to talk to other religious groups and proselytize to them about their agenda. And if that’s what they want to do, then fine, they were clear that that’s what they are going to do in their mission statement. No one says the religious clubs have to coordinate with them, no one says anyone has to listen to them, but they have the right to proselytize in the US Constitution (I’d call it a mix of free speech and freedom of religion). I’m pretty sure the Brandeis Student Union Constitution doesn’t take precedence in this case.

  18. Daniel Ortner Says:

    As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ( Mormon) I am always a bit warry when people begin throwing the word cult around in a very uneducated fashion. I sincerely doubt that any individual that is smart and intelligent enough to attend a demanding school such as Brandeis would be simple ‘brainwashed’ into a faith without due consideration of all of the facts and proper reasoning behind it. Moreover, the best way to engage with individuals of any faith is in open dialogue. Dialogue can do surprising wonders in influencing and changing the minds of people even if they hold their views for religious reasons. Allowing this club just seems like a logical and basic step.

  19. Nathaniel Mull Says:

    A response from CARP

    Regarding charges of “homophobia” and other acts of “bigotry”:

    Throughout his teachings, Sun Myung Moon makes clear moral judgments about what is right and what is wrong. He teaches that sexuality is the most sacred and precious gift given to human beings by God. He says that human sexuality is to be shared only by a monogamous man and woman in a mature, committed, unselfish, and eternal relationship that gives birth to children. All other sexual acts are deviations from God’s original intention for human sexuality. According to Unification Thought, all humanity stands guilty of some kind of sexual sin and is in need of redemption. Rev. Moon tells all people—not just homosexuals—that they are not living up to their full potential, that they are not experiencing the true love that God intended to share with His children. Rev. Moon wants to teach humanity how to have more fulfilling sexual lives by rejecting humanistic love and embracing a path of sacrifice and personal discipline that leads to God-centered conjugal love.

    Such teachings contain no elements of hatred or bigotry. Unificationism is simply taking a moral stance on human sexuality. For those who believe that homosexuality is a morally acceptable lifestyle, that can be discussed in a separate forum on sexual ethics. It has nothing to do with intolerance or hatred toward homosexuals.

    All spiritual leaders make moral judgments against the cultures and practices of their times. Their words are like bitter medicine that inevitably create controversy and make such spiritual figures unpopular during their lifetimes. The repeated ostracization of the prophets of Israel is an example of this. Spiritual leaders do not feed the egos of their contemporaries by telling them what they want to hear. The spiritual teacher challenges his students. He tells them that they have to change, that they are committing grave injustices against God, humanity, and themselves. The teacher seeks to shatter the students’ self-gratifying delusions in order to point them toward a higher ideal. Thus, Rev. Moon’s sometimes harsh words are meant to lead people out of ignorance and give them hope for becoming better people. Anyone who has attended one of his sermons can attest that he speaks with the utmost sincerity and compassion, even when chastizing his audience.

    Regarding charges of anti-Semitism:

    Reverend Moon has never condoned the Nazi atrocities of World War II. As the quoted statement explains, the death of six million Jews was the work of Satan—the enemy of mankind. Unification Principle explains that the Jewish people have occupied a central role in the unfolding of God’s plan for world salvation. Rev. Moon teaches that the crucifixion of Jesus was a mistake caused by the failure of John the Baptist, who represented Judaism at the time. Satan, in his attempts to thwart God’s work on earth, repeatedly attacks the chosen people of God—in this case, the Jewish leadership. Satan’s attempt to annihilate the Jewish people through the Holocaust is further evidence that they are the people most cherished by God. Moreover, Rev. Moon’s efforts to end Muslim-Jewish conflict in the Middle East and preserve the Jewish homeland in Israel are evidence of his love and compassion for the Jewish people.

    The mission of CARP is to promote God-centered families, based on the model presented in the Unification Principle. CARP members, like any sincere people of faith, are eager to share their deeply held convictions, but they do not impose their beliefs on others. CARP members are taught to never ridicule the beliefs or lifestyles of others, no matter how much they may disagree with them. They strive to see humanity as “one family under God,” treating all people with unconditional love and respect.

    Students join CARP because they are inspired by the teachings and the example of Rev. Moon. CARP members come from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds. They do not change their religion when they join CARP; they simply commit themselves to living a lifestyle of self-discipline, service to others, and sexual purity. They choose to abstain from alcohol, drugs, and pre-marital sex. Anyone who wants to live such a lifestyle is welcome to join CARP. Anyone who is curious about CARP’s beliefs is welcome to attend a CARP event or introductory presentation. If you disagree with the lifestyle of CARP students, they will not be offended, nor will they try to coerce you into changing your lifestyle. If you would like to discuss specific issues within Unification Principle, they will happily engage you so long as you are respectful and civil.

    If you have any additional questions about CARP, please contact the Boston District Representative, Nathaniel Mull, at nathanielmull@carpusa.org.

    Thank You

  20. Daniel Ortner Says:

    That was a very good response I must say. Well stated.

  21. Eugene Says:

    Nathaniel, I have just, with some horror, read the debate on Twitter concerning recognition of CARP on your campus.

    As a 52-year-old member of the Unification Church, living prosperously in Nebraska and having raised three fine children, I feel for you that you should still have to endure such brutal treatment, merely for seeking the same rights granted to so many student organizations.

    You have experienced something similar to what Martin Luther experienced when called before the tribunals of Catholicism to justify his heresies, and you have repeated his answer: “Here I stand, I can do no other.” This council was a Star Chamber, and I offer my heartfelt congratulations to you and to whoever the two young ladies were who stood up to its appalling intimidation.

    In my day, I was slapped, punched, kicked down stairs and even tossed into jail simply for passing out fliers inviting people to lectures on the Divine Principle. I had hoped that such intolerance, fanned by media hungry for controversy, had passed by. My heart bleeds that the second generation of our faith should still be subject to such indignity.

    I do not know you, Nathaniel, and I do not know who the two young ladies were. But I know your hearts, and I know that there is no ounce of hatred therein. You are, as the Called always are, enduring undeserved mockery and vilification for the sake of something higher than all of us.

    Well done, and God bless you.

    EUGENE CURTIN
    ecinomaha@yahoo.com

  22. Ten-Seng Guh Says:

    well said Nate, and sorry to hear about what happened Mr. Curtis. Indeed we owe it to the first generation for blazing the trail, laying the foundation so we would not have to go through the same ordeals. God bless us all, may we come to realize deep down inside we are more similar than we are different.