CESNUR - center for studies on new religions


June 17-20, 2004 - Baylor University, Waco, Texas

The Unification Church: An Analysis of Its Paradoxical Church-State Relationship

by Daeseob Kim, Baylor University
A paper presented at CESNUR 2004 international conference, Baylor University, Waco (Texas), June 18-20, 2004 – Preliminary version – do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author

           This paper examines the Unification Church, its activities and impacts on politics, the media, religious organizations, businesses, educational institutions, and people in the United States. I undertook this study of the Unification Church’s influence in the U.S. because of its unique position on church-state relations here and globally. Moreover, as a Korean, I am concerned about the influence of religious organizations on political and business life in my own country. Since the Unification Church originated there and since I am a Christian, I have found it necessary to be very aware of such organizations and how they may influence many aspects of public and private life in Korea and elsewhere. Likewise, since the Unification Church’s leadership has a goal to create a world theocracy, the influence of the Church on the politics, economy and personal freedoms is critical in Korea, the U.S. and other democracies. The current U.S. administration has attempted to erode the doctrine of church-state separation, providing an unprecedented opportunity for Unificationism to further its goals in the U.S. [1]

        Rev. Sun Myung Moon was born in 1920 in North Korea, and as a teenager claimed to have a revelation from God about his role in returning the Kingdom of God to earth. Rev. Moon became a religious leader in South Korea, forming his own movement and basing his theology on his Divine Principle. He preached that Jesus Christ failed in his mission on earth and that he himself would reign as a Second Messiah to complete the salvation of mankind.[2] He developed a following in South Korea and later in Japan; in 1959 he sent the first Unification Church missionaries to the United States. He saw the United States as very important to his goal of unifying all world religions and governments under a global theocracy headed by him as Messiah.[3]

            Rev. Moon claimed that at the age of sixteen he received a visit from God, Who told him that Jesus Christ had failed to accomplish His mission of returning Eden to its previous sinless state and redeeming mankind from sin. God revealed to him His plan for Rev. Moon to complete that mission as Messiah. The reasons Jesus failed, he stated, were that Jesus failed to marry and propagate sinless offspring and that the Jews persecuted Him before he could complete God’s intended purpose on earth.[4]

            Based on Rev. Moon’s experiences at a Korean monastery and philosophies he learned from other holy men, he developed his Divine Principle. Among the major aspects of the Divine Principle, Rev. Moon presented a different view of the Trinity, including God as Father and himself and his wife (Hak Ja Han Moon) as “True Parents.” He discredited the Bible, which he said did not correctly explain the final redemption of mankind.[5]

            Korean culture presented an opportunity for the growth of a number of religions because of the philosophy of openness, acceptance and a desire for unification. Thus Korean religion was influenced greatly by Buddhism, Confucianism, folk Shamanism (spirit world, magic, etc.) and, later, Christianity. When Rev. Moon began to develop and preach his Divine Principle, he was successful because of this very openness in Korea and, later, in Japan.[6]

            Since the cornerstone of Unificationism is the Divine Principle, its theology and religious practices reflect the principle. The importance of the family and marriage are strongly emphasized, as a basic building block of a unified nation, religion and world. Rev. Moon preached that one becomes purified or sinless on joining the Unification Church. His aim is to redeem mankind, returning Eden to its original sinless state, and establishing a purified family of man in the Kingdom of God on earth. There would be only one church, the Unification Church, over all the earth, and church would be superior to state and in fact one and the same. In other words, there would be a world theocracy, presided over by him as the True Father.[7].9

            Beginning in 1959 in the United States, as in other countries, the early Unification Church sought a grassroots movement to convert the masses to become Unificationists. In order to achieve an effective conversion of the masses, the movement needed money, lots of it. However, the early missionaries in the United States were not well financed, and they were expected to be self-supporting. Consequently, Ms.Young Oon Kim, who became Rev. Moon’s chief theologian, and other missionaries targeted young Americans and used deceptive practices to spirit them into the organization and put them to work raising money for the movement. Some of these practices caused alarm among parents, the religious community, law enforcement and anti-cultists. Exploiting the very freedoms that permit Americans to freely practice their own religions, Unificationist recruiters often attracted college students away from home and family, brainwashed them, abused them and kept them in tightly controlled environments. Some recruits were forced to work long hours every day, living in vans with other recruits and selling flowers and trinkets to raise funds for the Church. The movement gained a very negative reputation as a cult that brainwashed young people and turned them against their own families and religious beliefs.10 Some of their practices were tested in U.S. courts, and ultimately the Church prevailed by hiring capable lawyers and challenging the claims against them as prejudicial and contrary to the First Amendment freedom of religion. Nonetheless, the stigma of a poor reputation stuck with the movement, resulting in the derogatory name of “Moonies.”

              When Rev. Moon arrived in the United States in 1972, he found the scattered factions of his movement in disarray and developing their own interpretations of the theology. He moved quickly and decisively to unify those factions and to promote the growth of the Church.11 Aside from the membership activities, he and his senior leaders began to take action to influence politicians, religious leaders, educators and public opinion through the media. He also used his financial power, mostly originating from overseas resources, to support political leaders whose conservative philosophies fit his own agenda; he developed powerful friends such as former Presidents Richard Nixon and George Bush and religious leaders such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.12-14 Recognizing the vital importance of the media in influencing public opinion, he purchased a number of newspapers, publishing firms and television production firms, and he founded the influential and controversial conservative newspaper, The Washington Times.15 He purchased ailing educational institutions16 and sponsored media events and scholarly conferences around the world, inviting popular politicians and well-known educators and scientists as speakers and participants. Often he financed these trips for

participants and their spouses. Importantly, Rev. Moon used his considerable financial power to purchase and establish a number of businesses in the U.S. and abroad, the revenues of which he used to support his political activities and contribute to the political campaigns of friendly conservative candidates and incumbents to public offices around the nation. Many of these activities and businesses raised the question of violation of separation of church and state. However, local governmental and even Congressional investigations were thwarted by Rev.Moon’s successful use of legal maneuvering and clever legal defense tactics.17-18

            The doctrine of separation of church and state in the U.S. has a long history, extending back to the formation of the fledgling government of the new nation, the newly devised Constitution and the subsequent First Amendment of the Constitution. This doctrine has been jealously guarded over the last two hundred years.19 With its agenda of unifying all world religions and governments, combining them under a single theocracy,20 the Unification Church has every reason to breach the doctrine of church-state separation whenever the opportunity arises. To finance its agenda in the U.S. and elsewhere, the Church has used its huge financial base to purchase and establish numerous businesses. As discussed, the Church has succeeded in defeating a number of challenges to its activities and organizations that appear to violate that

doctrine. Notable among these activities are its blatant support of political candidates, often with very generous donations and expensive advertising campaigns in favor of specific politicians. Moveover, the acquisition and use of media, such as United Press International and The Washington Times, to name only a couple, cannot be mistaken as religious activity. In this sense, the Unification Church has exerted a strong leadership example for other nonsecular organizations in the U.S. to project their own philosophies and personal agendas in the political arena and business world without fear of interference by governments and law enforcement agencies.

            The advent of the Religious Right in 2000, particularly President Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative, has opened new avenues of growth for emerging religions in the United States. Amid considerable controversy, the Administration has established new policies for government-funded social services by church-related organizations. Thus both established and emerging religions now have opportunities to compete with secular organizations for taxpayer-funded social service contracts. This departure from the traditional separation of church and state in the U.S. is a welcome event for the Unification Church and other fringe religious organizations.

            The initiative has met with limited success due to widespread opposition by liberal factions in the government and poor press. Nonetheless, the Unification Church has benefited from the program in the U.S.

            In sum, the Unification movement is not likely to achieve its strategic goal of a world theocracy. Aside from the Church’s failure to control public opinion in the United States and elsewhere, the rapid rise of other theocratic cultures overshadows the Unification Church’s goal of global unity. Indeed, the survival of free societies is at stake, capturing the attention of the entire world.


        A. Reverend Moon and the Unification Church, applying his Divine Principle, plans to unify all governments and religions under a world theocracy.

B.    To accomplish this agenda, Rev. Moon has built a financial empire to fund his world-wide movement.

C.    However, because he has not been successful in creating a mass conversion of Americans, he has resorted to a “top-down” approach of influence on politics, religious leaders, educators, the media, and so on. The Church’s questionable use of money has been powerful in that effort.

D.   Exploiting the doctrine of separation of church and state, a permissive legal system and the religious freedoms enjoyed in the U.S., the Unification Church has created many political and business organizations here. In some ways, the Church’s activities violate the doctrine.

E.    The advent of the Religious Right and the current government administration have greatly favored the goals of the Church. In particular, the President’s “faith-based initiative” has provided unprecedented opportunities for the Movement to grow and further its agenda with public funding.

F.    The Church’s current activities in an election year include supporting conservative candidates and ensuring that issues important to the Unification Movement are publicized and funded.

G.   For the long-term, the prospects for the Church’s global ambitions are poor because of their reputation in the free world as a cult and their widely divergent philosophies from those of Christians, Jews, Muslims and other major world religions. Consequently, the Unification Church’s impacts are likely to be more local than global and confined to open societies such as those in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and parts of Northeast Asia.




Barker, Eileen. The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publisher, Ltd., 1984.

Chryssides, George D. The Advent of Sun Myung Moon: The Origin, Beliefs, and Practices of the Unification Church. London, Macmillan Professional and Academic Ltd, 1991.

Dean, Roger A. Moonies: A Psychological Analysis of the Unification Church. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992.

Jackson, Samuel. Unification Theology. London: Trandem, 1991.

Kang, Wi Jo. “The Unification Church: Christian Church or Political Movement?” The Unification Church I, J. Gordon Milton, ed. Garland Publishing: New York, 1990.

Lander, James. Moonie Members. New York: Galgram Publishing.

Moon, Sun Myung. Divine Principle, 2nd ed. New York: HSA-UWC, 1973.

United States Congress. Investigation of Korean-American Relations: Hearings before the Subcommittee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Relations. Part II. Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1976, 9.

Wells, Johnathan. Unification Christology. New York: Paragon House, 1989


Boston, Rob. “James Madison and Church-State Separation,” Church & State, 54 no. 3 (March 2001), 10 (58).

________. “Moon Shadow,” Church & State, 54 no. 6 (June 2001), 10-11 (130-131).

Green, Linda. “Moonstruck in Connecticut,” Christianity Today, Vol.37, No.1 (21 June1993), 54.

Holt, T. Harvey. “A View of the Moonrise,” Conservative Digest (January/ February 1989), 39.

Matchey, Reagan. “Moon, the Church and the State,” Free Thought Journal (February 2000), 57.

[1] Joseph L. Conn, “Faith-Based Fiat,” Church & State 56, no. 1 (January 2001): 4 (4).

[2] George D. Chryssides, The Advent of Sun Myung Moon: The Origin, Beliefs, and Practices of the Unification Church (London: Macmillan Professional and Academic Ltd, 1991), 19.

[3] Eileen Barker, The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publisher, Ltd., 1984), 44.

[4] Chryssides, 20.

[5] Roger A. Dean, Moonies: A Psychological Analysis of the Unification Church (New York: Garland Publishing, 1992), 93.

[6] Chryssides, 68.

[7] Johnathan Wells, Unification Christology (New York: Paragon House, 1989), 44.

9 Samuel Jackson, Unification Theology (London: Trandem, 1991), 76.

10 Dean, Ibid.

11 James Lander, Moonie Members (New York: Galgram Publishing), 16.

12 Wi Jo Kang, “The Unification Church: Christian Church or Political Movement?” The Unification Church I, J. Gordon Milton, ed. (New York: Garland Publishing, 1990), 28.

13 Reagan Matchey, “Moon, the Church and the State,” Free Thought Journal (February 2000): 57.

14Rob Boston, “Moon Shadow,” Church & State 54, no. 6 (June 2001): 12 (132).

15 T. Harvey Holt, “A View of the Moonrise,” Conservative Digest (January/February 1989): 40.

16 Linda Murray Green, “Moonstruck in Connecticut,” Christianity Today 37, no. 7 (June 21, 1993): 54. 

17 Holt, 40.

18 United States Congress. Investigation of Korean-American Relations: Hearings before the Subcommittee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Relations. Part II. Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1976, 9.

19 Rob Boston, “James Madison and Church-State Separation,” Church & State 54, no. 3 (March 2001): 10 (58).

20 Sun Myung Moon, Divine Principle, 2nd ed. (New York: HSA-UWC, 1973), 470-71.

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