University’s link to the Unification Church prompts a lawsuit from Bridgeport coalition.
The role the Unification Church has played in the rescue of a small Connecticut university has been challenged in court by a diverse alliance of Bridgeport-area residents.
The goal of the plaintiffs—alumni, former trustees, donors, a former faculty member, a student, and a state legislator—is clarification of a confusing situation. “There has never been a situation like this,” says attorney Michael A. Stratton. “Things are not terribly clear. We are asking the court to tell us what the law is.”
In February, the Connecticut Board of Governors for Higher Education extended accreditation to the University of Bridgeport (UB) to June 1995. That decision had been tabled a month earlier because of concern about control of UB by the Professors World Peace Academy (PWPA), a 10,000 member-strong alliance of academics founded by Sun Myung Moon.
A private school with declining enrollment in an economically devastated city, UB accepted a $50 million loan and grant package last spring from PWPA. In exchange, the organization received control of the board of trustees.
Moon casts a shadow
Plans had been under way to close the 85-acre campus on Long Island Sound when the university accepted the PWPA offer. That, opponents say, makes PWPA Moon’s “Trojan horse.” They believe Moon poses a threat to the intellectual integrity of the university and the freedom of students there.
“Moon has ties to extremists around the world,” says Glenn Davis, a vocal opponent. “He’s into brainwashing and cult stuff. This still goes on.”
Included in teachings by the 73-year-old Korean: the Fall was a result of a sexual relationship between Eve and Lucifer; Jesus failed in his earthly ministry because, while he brought spiritual salvation, he did not conquer physical temptations; and Moon’s Divine Principle is the completed testament of the previously unfinished Bible. Moon also is behind an international network of businesses and organizations, both for profit and not for profit. The list includes the Washington Times, the International Cultural Foundation, the Washington Institute for Values and Public Policy, Paragon House Publishers (N.Y.), the Christian Bernard jewelry chain, and Happy World toy and clothing outlets. Moon has run afoul of the IRS and served time in a federal prison for tax evasion.
Davis suggests local Christians have been too slow to question Moon’s ties. “We had hoped there would be more people in the religious community involved. They seem to be sensitive about attacking another church.”
The suit, filed in May, questions the operation of a university with a nonsectarian charter by what Stratton calls a “well-known cult.” But PWPA Secretary General Gordon Anderson insists his organization will maintain the nonsectarian mandate in the university’s charter. PWPA is by charter independent, although 90 percent of its money comes from the Unification Church.
However, PWPA goals published a decade ago suggest otherwise, resolving “to work with the Rev. Moon toward establishment of a God-centered world of universal fellowship and harmony.” Those who fear giving the Unification Church that kind of stake in the university sought the advice of Steven Hassan, author of Combating Cult Mind Control and a former rising star in the Moon organization. He portrays Moon as a deadly serious and dangerous man.
No Moon affiliate is independent, Hassan says. All are links in his scheme for “taking over the world. They want to use the university to recruit and indoctrinate the whole world.”
University officials see no conflict. “We’re not in the religion business,” said UB spokesman Walter Wager. “We have an ironclad guarantee [the PWPA] will not interfere with academic freedom.” The claims in the suit “have no merit,” says Wager.
The primary aim of the suit, Stratton says, is reorganization of the board of trustees, which now has 60 percent PWPA control. Stratton says Bridgeport is vulnerable, and Moon is trying to cash in on the fear that the city—which has seen UB enrollment dip to 1,500 from 9,700—cannot take yet another loss. “Now is the time to stop him. He’ll be too strong in a few years.”
By Linda Murray Green in Bridgeport.
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