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Faith-based fall-out: Rev. Moon passes plate to American taxpayers.

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon was an early supporter of President George W. Bush's "faith-based" initiative.

The founder of the controversial Unification Church gave the initiative an important boost in April of 2001, when the proposal was floundering in Congress. A Moon front group promoted a "faith-based summit" sponsored by congressional Republicans, beaming it via satellite from Washington, D.C., to 45 cities.

It now appears that Moon is being handsomely rewarded for his efforts. The San Francisco Chronicle reported last month that Moon's followers have received federal faith-based funding to run marriage seminars and promote abstinence among teenagers.

Oddly enough, TV preacher Pat Robertson was one of the first critics to warn that this might happen. On Feb. 20, 2001, he told viewers of his "700 Club" that faith-based funding could become "a real Pandora's box" and that controversial groups might get funded. Robertson even mentioned "the Moonies" by name.

But then a funny thing happened: The Bush administration arranged for a Robertson charity, Operation Blessing, to receive a half-million-dollar grant. Robertson hasn't uttered a critical word about the initiative since.

Nor is he likely to, even though one of Robertson's fears has come to pass. A religious group with highly unorthodox beliefs, whose leader claims to be the messiah, is getting tax aid--and Robertson can't say a thing about it. He surrendered his right to complain the day he signed that government check.

Federal funding for Moon is outrageous--but in many ways it was inevitable. A core principle of our Constitution is that government may not play favorites among religions. Benefits and subsidies given to one must be available to all. It's no surprise that the Unification Church wants its slice of the pie.

The faith-based initiative is flawed for many reasons, but this incident cuts to the core of one problem that is often glossed over by initiative boosters: What happens when public aid goes to groups whose views are troubling to many?

Moon's views on marriage and human sexuality are controversial, to be charitable. Does it serve the public interest to allow an organization whose founder simultaneously marries thousands of couples (many of them near strangers) to host healthy marriage seminars? What does society gain when groups tied to the vociferously anti-gay Moon get federal support to teach impressionable teens about sex?

Moon and Robertson are multi-millionaires. They built their religious empires without taxpayer subsidies, and they should maintain them that way.

Like all religious leaders, Moon and Robertson have the right to believe controversial things. Let them use theft own money to pay for spreading those views. Passing the collection plate to the taxpayer is unconscionable.
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Title Annotation:Editorials
Publication:Church & State
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Words:441
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