Dec 05, 2000

Christian Coalition President Pat Robertson may think the Rev. Sun Myung Moon is a "cult leader," but he apparently doesn't mind joining forces with him to achieve common political goals.

On Dec. 1, Moon's American Clergy Leadership Conference sponsored a press conference in front of the Supreme Court to coincide with legal arguments at the high court over the Florida election results. The event was billed as a nonpartisan, interfaith call to "unite upon the common ground of America's tradition of faith in God to prevent the continued partisan struggle over the election results in Florida from further polarizing the nation."

Among the speakers was Dr. Daniel Perkins, a representative of Robertson's Christian Coalition who read a formal statement from the TV preacher.

Robertson's participation in the event is especially ironic given his attack on Moon the day before. In a Nov. 30 essay called "How to Recognize a Cult" -- posted on Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network website -- the TV preacher said one hallmark of a cult is the "exaltation of the leader of the cult."

"Cults," said Robertson, "often center around a man or woman who is trying to gain power, money or influence from manipulating people. This appears to be the case in the Unification church with Sun Myung Moon."

Moon, a controversial Korean evangelist, has made repeated efforts to reach out to evangelical Christians, and he has succeeded in establishing a cordial working relationship with TV preacher Jerry Falwell and several other Religious Right leaders.

The ties exist despite a Moon theology that differs sharply from orthodox Christianity. Moon claims he is a new messiah who has been sent by God to complete the failed mission of Jesus. Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han, who call themselves "True Parents," want all Christians to unite under their divine authority.

The American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), which sponsored the Supreme Court event, was founded in May of this year at Moon's behest. According to the Rev. Michael Jenkins, a top Moon official (who presided at the Supreme Court press conference), the ACLC is part of Moon's plan to melt down all denominational barriers to form one body of Christ.

In a May 21 sermon, Moon said, "America is founded based on Christianity....No one denominational leader can make unity; unity can come only by the guidance of True Parents. And by uniting they can save America and have an impact to create unity in the world."

The ACLC received its greatest press attention this year when it helped cosponsor Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan's Oct. 16 Million Family March in Washington, D.C. The Moon relationship with Farrakhan apparently remains strong. Minister Benjamin Muhammed of the Million Family March was one of the speakers at the ACLC press conference at the Supreme Court.

Robertson's contribution to the press conference is only one small part of his all-out drive to put Republican George W. Bush in the White House. Robertson and his Christian Coalition worked for Bush's election in the GOP primary and the general election, distributing millions of voter guides. Since Nov. 7, Robertson's legal group has intervened in the courts on Bush's behalf.

Observers of the Religious Right say the budding Robertson-Moon relationship is a remarkable development on the religious and political scene. The Moon alliance suggests Robertson is willing to put aside fundamental religious differences to achieve a political objective.

"They say politics makes strange bedfellows," said Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "But the Moon-Robertson marriage of convenience is a new height of absurdity. I wonder if the Christian Coalition rank-and-file will approve of Robertson's new ties to a man Robertson himself regards as a cult leader.

"Moon and Robertson have a lot in common," continued Lynn. "Both have built billion-dollar religious empires, and both have run into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. But I don't believe the Moon-Robertson marriage will last. Both men think they're destined to run America -- if not the world -- and they can't both be right."

Americans United is a church-state watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization represents 60,000 members and allied houses of worship in all 50 states.