Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Reverend Moon's Senate crowning raises eyebrows

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

As a shining symbol of democracy, the US capital is not ordinarily a place where coronations occur. So news that the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the eccentric and exceedingly wealthy Korean-born businessman, donned a crown in a Senate office building and declared himself the Messiah while members of Congress watched is causing a bit of a stir.

Democrat congressman Danny Davis wore white gloves and carried a pillow holding one of two ornate gold crowns that were placed on the heads of Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, at the ceremony, which took place on March 23 and capped a reception billed as a peace awards banquet.

Davis, for the record, says he held the wife's crown and was "a bit surprised" by Moon's Messiah remarks, which were delivered in Korean but accompanied by a written translation. In them, he said emperors, kings and presidents had "declared to all heaven and earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."

By Wednesday, after news of the event had been reported in the online magazine Salon and various newspapers, Capitol Hill was in full-blown backpedaling mode, as lawmakers who attended but missed the coronation -- or saw it and did not think much of it -- struggled to explain themselves.

"I remember the king and queen thing," said Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican, "But we have the king and queen of the prom, the king and queen of 4-H, the Mardis Gras and all sorts of other things. I had no idea what he was king of."

At 84, Moon cuts a curious figure in Washington, where he mingles with the city's power elite by dint of his dual roles as religious leader and media mogul. He owns the Washington Times, which bills itself as a conservative alternative to the Washington Post, as well as United Press International, the wire service. He calls himself "Father" and has drawn notoriety for officiating at mass weddings. As a conservative, he claims close ties to US President George W. Bush and the Republican Party.

Moon's Unification Church has many branches, including the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, which held what it called an Ambassadors for Peace awards banquet in the Dirksen Office building on March 23. Lawmakers were told that "exemplary leaders from across the nation will be honored with the `Crown of Peace' award for leadership in reconciliation and peacemaking."

To hold the event in the Dirksen building, the organization was required to find a senator willing to act as sponsor. But the identity of that senator remained a secret on Wednesday; the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which approved the request, would not release the name.

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