Lawmakers attend Moon ‘coronation’ in Dirksen

Coronations are not everyday occurrences on Capitol Hill — the Capitol being the people’s house, an indelible symbol of the republic, etc.

So it’s odd that a man was crowned in the Dirksen Senate Office Building earlier this year in the presence of several lawmakers and that the event is only now drawing attention.

It appears that at least some lawmakers were drawn to the event unaware of what would happen and who would be there. Others who the organizers claim were present say they were not.

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, former felon and current owner of The Washington Times, was the man in the spotlight, declaring himself humanity’s “savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.”

The event, which took place March 23, was sponsored by the Washington Times Foundation and the International Interreligious Federation for World Peace (IIFWP), a Moon-led group. Present at different points during the event were Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Sen. Mark Dayton (R-Minn.).

One of Moon’s claims that evening was that “Hitler and Stalin have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons.”

In a video on the IIFWP website, Cummings is seen giving a speech saying Moon is “always standing up for what is right.” Davis, wearing white gloves, places a jeweled crown on Moon’s head. The video, and articles about the event, were taken down from the website Friday.

Asked if he thought the crowning unusual, Davis, who has attended several Moon events, replied, “I see people crowned. I go to parades quite a bit … [and see] the queen of the homecoming parade, queen of the festival.”

Moon founded the Unification Church in Seoul, Korea, in 1954 and moved it to the United States in the 1970s. In 1982, he received an 18-month prison sentence for tax fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He has been derided as a megalomaniac cult leader and is most famous for mass weddings at which he marries thousands of couples simultaneously.

“I’m not involved in any cult activities,” Davis said. In an interview with the Chicago Reader newspaper published last week, Davis said Moon’s organization “put together a little fundraiser one time and gave me a few thousand dollars.”

The invitation for the event lists Davis, Weldon and Bartlett and Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Chris Cannon (R-Utah) and Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) as “Congressional Co-Chairs.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Phil Crane (R-Ill.) and GOP consultant Charlie Black were listed as members of the “Host Committee.”

In an e-mail sent to reporters, Dayton said he “stopped by” the ceremony “to greet” Minnesota Rev. Rosilyn M. Carroll, who was honored by the IIWFP. Dayton denied he helped reserve the Dirksen room or accepted an award.

“I did not see anyone identified as a Rev. Moon during the brief time I attended the reception to visit with Rev. Dr. Carroll,” wrote Dayton, “nor did I see any award given to a Reverend Moon.”

Devika Koppikar, a spokeswoman for Cummings, said the “only reason [Cummings] went was at the request of his constituent” Bishop Joseph Showell, who was honored by Moon. She added that Cummings did not support Moon’s claim that he is the Messiah.

Weldon, whose office initially denied that he attended the event but retracted that claim upon being shown photos, gave a brief speech about his recent trip to Libya.

Michael Conallen, a spokesman for Weldon, said he “was not there for the crowning” and “had no idea that the Reverend Moon was going to be at this event. … If we had known that Reverend Moon was going to attend the event, be crowned and make an unbelievably interesting speech, the congressman likely would not have attended.”

Bishop said he did not attend and added, “My Messiah is Jesus Christ.” His spokeswoman, Jennifer Hoelzer said a woman came to Bishop’s office “frequently” inviting him and Bishop eventually decided to accept an award in absentia. Bishop did, however, attend a Feb. 4 event at the Ronald Reagan Building presided over by Moon’s son.

Mark Sherman, a spokesman for Ford, denied any association with Moon, saying, “If we were contacted [about the event] it’s not clear that they represented themselves as being with Reverend Moon’s church.”

Lisa Wright, a spokeswoman for Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md), upon whom Moon bestowed an Ambassador of Peace Medal at the ceremony, said Bartlett was “notified that he was a recipient [of the award] by the Washington Times Foundation” and Bartlett “does not recall” being there for Moon’s speech. She said, “Congressman Bartlett will decline to attend future and similar events to receive awards from the Washington Times Foundation. … There was no representation of personal involvement by the Reverend Moon in connection with the event.”

Tami Stough, a spokeswoman for Crane, said he “was absolutely not there” and was at other events that evening.

The offices of Rep. Tom Davis and Sen. Graham did not return calls seeking comment.

An outside group must be sponsored by a senator to get a Dirkson room. Susan Irby, spokeswoman for the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, refused to say which senator sponsored the Moon event.

Archbishop George Augustus Stallings Jr., a member of the invitation committee and founder of the Imani Temple in Northeast Washington, D.C., said letters were sent to all Congress members stating that Moon and his wife would be at the event and “every member on the host committee agreed to be on the original [Feb. 4] event.” Stallings said “a follow-up letter” went to those members, confirming their status on March 23 and that unless they opted out in reply their names would remain on the invitation as such.

Lawmakers are regularly asked to serve as honorary co-chairs of such events, he said. It’s “so common that congressmen … would not have the slightest idea” they were named as sponsors.

Asked if Weldon’s name appeared incorrectly on the event invitation, Stallings said the lawmaker had been to several previous Moon events: “I can state clearly that Congressman Weldon’s name did not appear for the first time on an invitation for an event that the IIFWP has sponsored.”

The Washington Times Foundation could not be reached for comment.