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The Nose

Moon Over Mondawmin

Posted 3/2/2005

The regular meeting of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council on Feb. 3 was anything but regular. The Rev. James Matsui, leader of the Baltimore Family Church in Towson, arrived with drawings and, in thickly accented English, made the pitch for a memorial in Druid Hill Park.

A memorial to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

“I couldn’t understand a word he said—and I couldn’t make much of his drawings either,” says Nathaniel Freeman, president of the coordinating council. The group tabled the proposal until the next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 3 in the basement of Mondawmin Mall.

Matsui was asking not for permission to build the memorial, which would encompass a 10-foot circle, with a boulder, a five-foot pine tree, flowers, benches, a bronze plaque and a photo of Moon praying. He was asking only for the council’s blessing, in the form of a letter of endorsement he could bring to the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Matsui says he began the process with a letter to Parks director Kimberly Flowers. “They send me some policy to make a memorial. [It] says I need support of the community,” Matsui says. “That’s why I went to the Greater Mondawmin.”

Members of the council were skeptical, council vice president Sandra Almond-Copper says. “It doesn’t matter what group it is,” she says. “We’re a diverse neighborhood already. It’s just that . . . some people say they’re a cult.”

Steve Hassan is one such person. Now director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center in Massachusetts, Hassan spent 1974 to 1976 fund-raising in Baltimore for Moon’s Unification Church. He got out after he crashed his van on Interstate 95, rushing to raise his quota of dollars for Moon, he says.

“Moon wants to take over the world. And he wanted to take over the world when I was a leader in the group,” Hassan says.

In fact, the Unification Church’s teaching about holy grounds consecrated by Moon on his trip to America in 1965 makes just that point. Moon considers himself the Messiah and the only one capable of returning God’s earthly kingdom to God. “Father [Moon], at minimum, returns them from Satan’s dictatorship to God’s rightful ownership,” says Chapter 9 of The Tradition, a Moon tract. “Symbolically, Holy Grounds are God’s territory. In our prayers, we should visualize that Holy Ground will extend over the whole nation and ultimately the whole world.”

The chapter, which details the methods by which such ground is made holy (using salt), also lists the stops on Moon’s 1965 tour. Baltimore is No. 35.

Matsui says he doesn’t know if the church plans to place permanent memorials in the other 55 U.S. cities on the list. The Nose could not determine this independently either, although Robert D. Levine, Parks director in New Haven, Conn. (No. 40), said he had received a call from Chicago (No. 49) about an effort there.

Moon owns The Washington Times newspaper, a favorite of conservative Republicans. The self-proclaimed “one true father” claims to have spent more than $1 billion propping it up. Moon’s church also owns vast tracts of real estate and “one-fifth of the nation’s fishing industry,” according to Hassan.

“People think that because they don’t see them on the street any more selling flowers that they’ve gone away, but they haven’t,” Hassan says of his former brethren. “They’ve mainstreamed themselves. Now they’re getting [federal] faith-based funds. They’re pushing our president’s agenda. I think it’s subverting our country

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