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Local/Regional News Item Sunday, April 1, 2001
Moon to speak in Louisville Tuesday
U.S. tour backs families, harmony among religions

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, will speak in Louisville Tuesday as part of a 50-day, 50state tour designed to promote efforts to strengthen families and encourage harmony across religious and racial lines.

The Rev. Charles Elliott Jr., pastor of King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church, said he invited Moon, one of the more controversial contemporary religious figures, because his recent messages have focused on the family and on unity. Elliott is among 25 local religious and civic activists serving on an official invitational committee for Moon's visit.

''I didn't know too much about his past,'' Elliott said. ''I've had the privilege to be in his presence and listen to what he is saying now . . . to bring people of all races and denominations together.''

The Korean-born Moon, 81, will speak Tuesday at King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church at 5:30 p.m.

Moon's Unification Church, founded in Korea in 1954, first came to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s as its members (sometimes called ''Moonies'') took part in mass weddings and spent long hours selling flowers by roadsides. Allegations of mind control and Moon's messianic claims prompted many to call the group a cult.

Moon was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to about 18 months in prison in the 1980s for his handling of church funds, charges he calls unjust.

In recent years, Moon and his organizations have attempted to move into the mainstream, operating the conservative Washington Times newspaper, the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, and a church-affiliated shrimp-processing plant that has become such a part of the fabric of Bayou La Batre, Ala., that the town fathers presented Moon with a plaque when his tour took him to Alabama last month.

The Unification Church -- estimated to have 50,000 American members and 3 million worldwide -- has also put more emphasis on interfaith harmony. Moon lent support to the Million Family March in Washington, D.C., last fall, which was sponsored by the Nation of Islam.

''We're very grateful to Reverend Moon and the Unification Church for that,'' said Minister Jerald Muhammad of the Louisville-area Nation of Islam. ''Ninety-nine percent of the problems in our community could be eradicated if we could strengthen our families.''

King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church is at 1620 Anderson St., one block south of Broadway at 17th Street.

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon plans to appear in all 50 states in 50 days. His tour also promotes racial harmony.

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