Maryland Representative Defends Unification Church Ceremony

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett says there was nothing peculiar about his assisting the Rev. Sun Myung Moon during a coronation ceremony at which Moon declared himself the Messiah.

Videos of the March 23 event in Washington show Bartlett holding Moon's robes, bowing to Moon and his wife, and participating in a four-way handshake with the couple and another representative from Illinois.

Bartlett says he had gone to the event to accept a peace award from the Washington Times Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Moon's Washington newspaper. He said he was unexpectedly asked to participate in the ceremony.

"What was so strange?" Bartlett asked. "I'm not rude, and if I was there and asked to do something that was benign, handing a robe to an old person and honoring him for his contribution to world peace and fundamental morality, now why wouldn't I do that if I was asked to?"

More than a dozen lawmakers attended the congressional reception, in which Moon declared himself humanity's savior and said his teachings have helped Hitler and Stalin be "reborn as new persons."

Bartlett said he didn't know Moon would be at the ceremony. Many of the congressional members in attendance have said they felt misled into making an appearance that was later used to promote Moon's Unification Church.

However, the group had denied tricking the congressmen, saying those invited knew Moon would be there.