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?
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.