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(RNS) — The Trump administration has repeatedly made religious freedom a priority. If it wants to keep its credibility on the issue, the White House would do well to pay attention to a court ruling in Washington, D.C., Superior Court in November involving the Unification Church — the movement known in the American press as “the Moonies.”
The central question in the lawsuit, which had been going on since 2011, involves a succession dispute and theological debate among the Unification Church’s members. But its implications could affect nearly every religious minority in the United States. If the D.C. court’s partial summary judgment stands unchallenged, it will weaken religious freedom protections for all Americans and particularly for newly established faith groups.
Unification - Church - Movement - South - Korea
The Unification Church movement began in South Korea in the mid-1950s with the preaching of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who touted a mix of Christian and Confucian theology. The present case, known as Family Federation for World Peace and Unification International (FFWPUI) v. Hyun Jin Moon, found its way into D.C. Superior Court because it involves the assets of a nonprofit corporation formed in the district in 1977, about the time the church was expanding its purchases of real estate and businesses in the United States, including one of New York’s largest hotels.
Five years later, the church set Americans abuzz when Moon officiated a mass wedding for more than 2,000 couples in Madison Square Garden. In the following decade, these prearranged marriages, as well as rumors of cultlike brainwashing, generated sensationalist press stories worldwide. The attention fizzled out only after Eileen Barker, a prominent British sociologist who had studied the movement for seven years, discounted the accusations of brainwashing.
Dispute - Court - Members - Founder - Family
The dispute before the court, driven by members of the founder’s family’s differing theological interpretations of what he intended, is as old as...
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