- The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, former felon and current owner of The Washington Times, was the man in the spotlight, declaring himself humanity’s "savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."
The event, which took place March 23, was sponsored by the Washington Times Foundation and the International Interreligious Federation for World Peace (IIFWP), a Moon-led group. Present at different points during the event were Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Sen. Mark Dayton (R-Minn.).
One of Moon's claims that evening was that "Hitler and Stalin have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons."
Reporter John Gorenfeld originally broke the story in Salon, and followed up a few weeks later by examining Weldon's role and his response:
- Well, when it comes to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the office of U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon is speaking with a definitive -- uhh, well, not so fast.
While Weldon vows that Moon will never again dupe him, his chief of staff, Michael Conallen, won't rule out Weldon's attending future events held by Moon's front group, the International and Interreligious Federation for World Peace (IIFWP), which apparently tricked several members of Congress into attending the March 23 "Crown of Peace" awards at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.
After I broke the story on Salon.com last week, subsequent publicity centered around legislators who claimed they were duped into attending the meeting. (The usual method of the IIFWP and Washington Times Foundation -- Moon owns the paper -- is to invite VIP speakers for Day 1 of the conference, photograph them and keep them in the dark about what's to be discussed Day 2.)
"I can definitively say," adds Conallen, "the congressman will never speak at any event where anything remotely like what happened on March 23 occurred."
As Gorenfeld searched further, though, it turned out that Weldon had indeed been fully informed about the day's events. Not only that, this wasn't the first time:
- After the pictures finally went through, the story changed to "apparently he was there, but we really had nothing to do with it. … We may have been a Congressional co-host, but we have nothing to do with the agenda, the organization, the scheduling, and our role would be limited explicitly to the attendance of the Congressman."
Not so, as it turned out. While Weldon's office maintains there was no way of knowing Moon would be there, a March 8 invitation stated that Moon and his wife "will also be recognized that evening for their lifelong work to promote interfaith cooperation and reconciliation," according to the Washington Post.
Seoul, mid-February 2002: The U.S. is at war, but Weldon is at the IIFWP's Assembly 2002 festivities, according to several Unification Church Web sites. His appearance, says his office, was related to his historic delegation to North Korea, though it wasn't on the same trip.
Speaking there was Chung Hwan Kwak, the president of the UPI wire service, the man who was in charge, according to estranged Moon daughter-in-law Nansook Hong, when members of the D.C. church were imprisoned and beaten by a man Moon believed to be the reincarnation of his son. Kwak tells the Seoul audience about a "culture of true love." Moon then gives a speech identifying the "Four Conditions for World Peace." The next day, Weldon speaks at the event, which, like most Moon events, is an exercise in making the founder look like the greatest man on earth.
"For decades," says Steve Hassan, a former group member who's now a self-described cult counselor, "Moon recruiters have deceptively lured people to isolated workshop settings and indoctrinated them to believe that they should renounce their own family and become a member of the "True Family.'"
On Nov. 22, 2002, Weldon was a keynote speaker at the IIFWP's U.S.-U.N. symposium, according to the IIFWP site. The site claimed the speech foreshadowed Weldon's partnership with U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, a Democrat from Illinois, which would see both praising the IIFWP's "Ambassadors for Peace" on the floor of Congress on June 19, 2003.
In April 2003, while the country's eyes were on Iraq, two things happened. One, a remarkable new edition of the church's Unification News came out. Two, Weldon spoke at an IIFWP symposium in New York.
The church newsletter described cross-removal hitting its stride, declaring that the painful symbol (painful because it prevents religions from uniting under Moon) was gone from 123 church walls. ("The Congressman does not accept or support any of Rev. Moon's teachings or beliefs," explained Conallen cautiously. "That statement certainly applies to any specific attacks or insults against the Christian faith.") And at the conference, held at the Moon-owned New Yorker Hotel, Weldon spoke about the United Nations.
Money from these events, according to Conallen, wasn't pocketed by Weldon, but went to pay for the Michael Horrocks Playground Fund, named for a 9/11 pilot. Today, Weldon remains listed on the Pennsylvania Parents Day nominating committee of Moon's American Family Coalition. As the Washington City Paper revealed in its 1995 story "Honor Thy Parents: How the Unification Church Convinced the U.S. Government to Endorse Its Holiday Honoring the Rev. and Mrs. Moon as the True Parents of Mankind," Parents Day is yet another way to glorify Moon, while pretending to honor others.
As Chris Bowers at MyDD points out, Weldon actually pinned a medal on Moammar Ghadafi at the March 23 event.