The Washington Post has an interesting item today about the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's March 23 "coronation" ceremony at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. During the event, Moon and his wife, dressed in flowing royal robes, had golden crowns placed on their heads, as members of Congress participated or looked on.

While it may sound kind of daffy, the controversial Korean evangelist's followers took the ceremony very seriously. A top Moon operative, Chung Hwan Kwak, later said the event means that "America surrendered to True Parents in the king's position." ("True Parents" is Moonspeak for Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han.)

At least one dozen members of Congress, including two U.S. senators and perhaps others, attended this event. (The complete guest list has not been made public.) Some of them are now saying that they were duped into showing up and never realized the event was sponsored by Moon front groups.

As far as we can determine, Americans United's Church & State magazine was the first print publication to report on the coronation ceremony. The story ran in the May issue in the "People & Events" section and can be read at this site. Moon critic John Gorenfeld has also written about the event on his blog, and he did a story about it this week for the online magazine Now, at last, the general media is picking up the story.

Moon has for years worked assiduously to build influence in political and religious circles. He owns The Washington Times, an ultra-conservative newspaper that has never turned a profit but that gives Moon access to conservative leaders in the nation's capital. He has invited Democrats to speak at these events and aggressively courts black clergy as well as Muslim clerics and other religious leaders. Through a dizzying number of front groups, Moon seeks to buy his way into the corridors of power and influence.

What does Moon want? At heart, Moon is a theocrat. His theology teaches that Jesus Christ failed in his mission on earth and that Moon is the new Messiah. Moon promises to usher in a new era of world peace and a merger of religions – with Moon as the ultimate spiritual and political head of all mankind. He attacks separation of church and state, saying it is contrary to God's will.

For years, many have considered Moon's views too strange to take seriously. People looked at the mass weddings he has conducted or remembered armies of Moon followers selling flowers on the streets in the ‘70s and concluded he was just an oddball.

His strange behavior and speeches, however, have never stopped Moon from making friends in the Religious Right and other corridors of influence. Ralph Reed, Jerry Falwell, Beverly LaHaye and Gary Bauer have all spoken at Moon events (and have been well compensated for it). Former U.S. president Gerald Ford and the first George Bush have also addressed Moon gatherings, as have ex-UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, former Education Secretary William Bennett and former Defense Secretary Alexander Haig. Anyone who has the power to hobnob with ex-presidents and former top government officials cannot be so casually dismissed as a harmless crank.

Today's Post article is an indication that the media is starting to take a hard look at Moon's influence and his efforts to buy his way into the circles of power in Washington. Americans United, which has monitored Moon's involvement with the Religious Right since the late 1970s, says that's long overdue.