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Sun Myung Moon gets 'faith-based' grant to promote King holiday.

The Bush administration has turned to an unusual source to promote the idea of public service as a way to honor the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King: the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in December gave an $80,000 grant to Service for Peace, an organization based in Bridgeport, Conn., that is a front group for Moon. The grant was given, a CNCS press release stated, to support service projects in conjunction with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

Service for Peace does not openly proclaim its ties to Moon. Its Web site (www.serviceforpeace.org) contains no references to the Unification Church or Moon. However, obscuring ties to Moon is a common practice for the organizations he runs, and the group's ties to the Unification Church are clear. According to publicly available records, the executive director of Service for Peace is Michael Balcomb, a long-time Moon operative, and the organization is frequently touted on Unification Web sites. Tax documents show that Service for Peace is affiliated with the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles, a Moon group for college students founded in 1984.

David Caprara, a longtime Moon operative, was until recently a top official at the CNCS, where he oversaw that office's promotion of "faith-based" initiatives. The grant, critics believe, may be a reward for Moon's ardent support of the Bush administration's faith-based initiative. (Caprara is the former president of the American Family Coalition, an alleged grassroots group founded by Moon in 1984.)

Moon has used the faith-based initiative to build support in the African-American community and lure pastors into conservative politics, and this grant may give him further inroads there. Because the federal grant provides for distribution of the federal money to other grantee groups to honor King, it allows Moon to use government funds to continue to recruit African-American clergy and other community leaders into his religious political machine, a project he has been working on for years.

Despite his unusual views--Moon believes he is the messiah sent to complete the failed mission of Jesus--the Korean evangelist has made astounding inroads into American conservatism and, increasingly, the broader American religious community.

Moon would seem an odd choice to promote the King holiday. Although he has been a strong advocate of racial intermarriage, which he says will bring the world together, Moon also seems to believe that race is environmentally determined.

In an April 7, 2004, sermon, he noted African-American clergy in the audience and said, "If you black leaders went to live in the North Pole, you would become white after a few generations." During that same speech, Moon also called on couples to sleep naked to eradicate homosexuality and asserted that "the Jews killed Jesus."

In other news about the faith-based initiative:

* Nearly one-quarter of the $15 billion allocated by the Bush administration to fight AIDS overseas has ended up in the hands of religious groups, the Associated Press has reported.

Many of the organizations taking the money emphasize "abstinence-based" programs that shun condom use. Among the recipients is Samaritan's Purse, a fundamentalist group run by evangelist Franklin Graham; World Vision, a Christian relief organization, and Catholic Relief Services, which says it will not promote, purchase or distribute condoms.

The AP reported that the administration is moving away from large groups that have battled AIDS in Africa and elsewhere for years in favor of "community and church groups with little or no background in government grants." The AP noted that some of these groups have "'no experience in HIV work."

* A Web site designed to rally opposition to the faith-based initiative has been revamped.

The site, www.StopReligiousDiscrimination.org, is a project of the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination, a collection of religious and public policy groups that oppose the faith-based initiative. Americans United helped found the Coalition. At the site, members of the clergy and social service providers can sign an open letter to President Bush and members of Congress expressing opposition to tax funding of sectarian social services.
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Title Annotation:Martin Luther King
Publication:Church & State
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2006
Words:678
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