German court to decide on Sun Myung Moon visa

Koblenz, Germany - Lawyers for South Korean religious figure Sun Myung Moon told a German court Thursday he should be permitted to enter European Union nations and demanded Germany drop a visa ban against him.

Judges of the Rhineland Palatinate administrative tribunal said they would rule in mid-May on the case.

Germany's constitutional court had referred the case to the tribunal after deciding a 1995 ban on Moon and his wife was invalid because it was a restriction on religious freedom.

Because of the EU's open borders, the German ban effectively keeps the 87-year-old founder of the Unification Church out of many EU countries.

The tribunal in Koblenz, which confirmed the ban in 2002, must now respond to the November 2006 constitutional ruling. The case is being argued in the provincial city where the German border police have their headquarters.

Youth-welfare officials regard Moon's organization as a sect that exploits the psychological instability of many young people.

Government officials say Moon's political views are also contrary to the German constitution's commitment to the combination of social security with free markets.

Lawyers for the government listed what they regarded as dangers coming from the Moon church, saying a meeting between Moon and his supporters in Germany would increase those dangers.

The Unification Church says it has 1,300 members in Germany and 10,000 "sympathizers."

The government alleged that the Unification Church, founded in Seoul in 1954, directs members who they are to marry and sets restraints on those who attempt to leave the movement. The group practices mass weddings.