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Gloucester is a good American town, the kind of town that hates anything too far out of its ken. Gloucester glared an American Gothic chagrin at 19th century religious mutants who sought to reform their church under the stern eye of local bigots and skeptics. These sectarians later became known as Unitarian Universalists and Christian Scientists, and the Gloucester people still chuckle at this historic yarn and shake their heads.
And in the modern world of cults and movements, Gloucester resembles its town monument: cast-iron fisherman poised on his pedestal, standing between the ocean and tourist shops, lost at sea.
For the past two years, Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church has stirred more controversy in the maritime town than anyone there can recall. "You'll have to strap marks on your ass before I give you a permit...you're not welcome here," Mayor Leo Alper told two church representatives when they applied for a harbor development permit in 1978. And since they opened shop in Gloucester four years ago, the world has started to watch. Members of Moon's church have gradually established a profitable fish processing plant there in addition to their even more lucrative operations in Kodiak, Alaska; Bayou LaBatre, Ala.; Mobile, Ala.; Norfolk, Va.; San Leandro, Calif.; and New York.
"Father Moon hopes to feed the world from the sea somday," Neil Salonen, president of the Unification Church in the U.S., once explained. Church members still entertain vague hopes of building a maritime academy in Gloucester, Aidan Barry, Boston director of the Unification Church, says. And Stephen Baker, a church advertising official, said in 1976 that Moon will make "fish into America's next Frank Perdue chicken.
No one paid much attention to Moon's smiling supporters when they were grossing more than $10 million a year peddling candy, flowers and ginseng tea on the sidewalk. But now that the Korean evangelist has sent his faithful into legitimate big business, both ordinary and powerful people are becoming concerned--not only with the validity of the Unification Church as a theological institution and its aims at world theocracy, but also with the legitimacy of its business practices. Indeed, the whole issue raises significant questions about the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion.
By entering Gloucester's fishing industry--that city's staple business--the church's members have offended not only the conventional religious mentality which binds the community, but also the sea, the sacrosanct element which, for centuries, has sustained Gloucester's economy and heritage. The "Moonies" are underselling the locally established fisheries, buying fish from trawlers at higher prices than anyone else can possibly afford. They have purchased waterfront property in the Cape Ann area at exorbitant prices--prices which were raised so high in the first place to keep them away. They are scaring Rotarians, small businessmen, local politicians, and federal agencies with their hypnotically aggressive nature, while gaining a foothold in a growing business.
"Gloucester's lucrative as hell," Alper says. "It's untapped Fishing is the business of the future. Moon's looking at Gloucester because he wants to utilize fish. The fish business is doing really well. That's the problem. He's not running a church, he's running a business."
And all the while, the Internal Revenue Service, the State District Attorney and Alper have been scratching their heads, checking their books and conducting audits and investigations, trying to figure out where International Seafoods, Inc.--the official name of the church's non-profit Gloucester fishery--gets its investments, how it bails itself out of trouble, and who buys property on Cape Ann at outrageous prices.
International Seafoods, Inc., is owned by members of the Unification Church and is a tax-paying business. And its local competitors and detractors claim that it has an unfair advantage in the market--it has the financial backing of a wealthy tax-exempt organization and "free labor." Alper says that either International Seafood's employees--all of whom are members of the church--are not paid, or they donate their wages back to the church.
Mike Runyan, a church member and a New York lawyer, defends the church's backing of fishing industries.
"The church has put up cash for them--they are taxable businesses--and so what if the church invests in them? The Mormons invested money in many taxable businesses, so has the Catholic Church.
"The name of the game is capital, more power to it. That's the way it goes in capitalism. A tax-exempt entity can invest. The Jesuits started the Bank of America," Runyan says.
He adds that the church-linked businesses do, in fact, pay their workers well above the minimum wage. But he--like everyone else--does not deny the money is flowing back to the church. In all towns where the Unification Church's fisheries opeate, the church workers live in communal houses--often mansions--purchased by Moon for the use of the work force.
"What does Alper know?" Runyan says. "We pay our laborers well."
Tim Sullivan, editor of National Fisherman magazine, who has covered the operations of International Seafoods since 1975, calls the backing a question of "fair business.'
"Where is this money coming from?" he asks. "One of their fisheries in Alabama is going broke and suddenly they get $2 million to resuscitate it. If you follow these individual fisheries to their parent companies, you'll find that the same individuals own the businesses."
And there are contradictions. When Salonen and Barry first informed Alper of their presence in Gloucester, they assured the fire-and-brimstone mayor that Tong Il--the former corporate name of International Seafoods--did not plan to buy property within Gloucester. But Moon purchased waterfront land, and gradually, Tong Il set up shop in Gloucester. ("Tong Il" was changed to "International Seafoods" in 1976, because of "terrible PR," the church's director for marketing services says "Tong Il" is also the name of Moon's Korean corporation which manufactures arms and weapons at an estimated annual profit of $2 million).
And while Barry, Runyan and Bill Sanders--the manager of International Seafoods--readily insist that their laborers are paid, church member Joy Irving said in 1977 that church members working for International Seafoods were "volunteering their services" for the good of the whole in a system which she described as "theocratic socialism."
And while Barry described International Seafoods as a "non-profit venture" which is "coincidentally owned by church members," Moon workers at International Seafoods were "donating" bluefin tuna to the Japanese branch of the church, which in turn sold the tuna in Tokyo at prices up to $3.50 per pound (prime price in the Boston area is $2 per pound). One church spokesman, who wished to remain anonymous, told Sullivan in 1977 that as an example the Unification Church could make $1650 for each 500-pound tuna it sold in Tokyo by eliminating the normal overhead costs of shipping and selling tuna to foreign retailers. The "donation" of the fish to another branch of the church and the utilization of church labor and facilities abrogates the normal overhead, the source explained. But he denied that this was a church practice saying that Moon's laborers are paid.
Barry says all the business ventures of Tong Il and International Seafoods during the last four years have been part of an effort to establish a financial base for the church's aim of feeding the world.
"The goal of the church is to unite all people," Barry told Gloucester in 1977. A main target of the church would be youths who "are involved with sexual promiscuity and drugs," he said.
"We really believe there has to be a viable alternative to Marxism today," Barry told the crowd.
And it's all perfectly legal--as legal as the Mormons investing money in Marriott Hotels, as legal as the Catholic Church investing in Pepsi-Cola. The Unification Church-linked enterprises manage to evade any complications in dealing with their foreign contingents, and the money they receive from their international corporations--after passing through a myriad of businesses and church connections--is laundered clean.
The real issues here--the issues that are raising hackles from Gloucester's Kiwanis Club all the way to the House Sub-Committee on International Organizations--are the real objectives of Moon's business enterprises in America, and the extent to which the First Amendment and its tax-exempt priority are being abused.
Phillip Greek, a former church member, told the House Sub-Committee, "In the future, it is the hope of Rev. Moon that the church will become one vast conglomerate of mutually supporting businesses."
Moon encourages this international "unification" of church-linked enterprises as the final method for the Unification Church to gain worldwide influence.
"We are trying to establish a financial base for this church through various methods of fund-raising," Barry told The Crimson last September at the church-sponsored International Conference for the Unity of Sciences in Boston.
Barry concurs that the theme of unification is central to both the religious doctrines of the church, and the church's various business enterprises. The concept of unity is reflected in the names of almost all Moon-linked businesses: Uniworld, Newsworld, International Seafoods, and International Oceanic Enterprises.
When asked if Moon's mission--as interpreted through The Divine Principle (Moon's own addendum to the Bible)--is to unite the world under Christ through Rev. Moon and his teachings, Barry said flatly, "Yes."
"Who knows?" Alper said from his desk in city hall last July. "Is it legal? Is it true? Are they paying wages? Do they want to take over the world? There have been investigations. Who Knows?
"You know I was sitting in the restaurant across from their place the other day," he continues, "and I saw Moon pull up there in a brand new 1979 Cadillac. Boy, you should have seen them bow and scrape. You know they don't hang around bars or anything...they keep a pretty low profile. Basically, they bow and scrape..."
Sullivan is quick to point out that Alper has a personal stake in all of this--a friend of the mayor's sister left his family for the Unification Church. Reportedly, Alper's sister felt bereaved.
"I don't like them," Alper says. "I'm not a bigot, I just don't like their system--what they do to children, brainwashing...I don't want them here."
And Alper is now the man at the helm in Gloucester, the man of cast-iron holding fast to the wheel during a gale stirred by politics, business, and basic American principles. He's in an impossible position--as are all the critics of Moon and his associated business enterprises--because at every complaint about International Seafood's corporate advantages and "evil" connections, Barry may utter: "We have as much a right, as a tax-exempt institution, to invest in businesses. Why should we forfeit out Constitutional rights? Because we are 'Moonies?' Why did they call blacks 'niggers?' It's the 1979 version of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers.'"
And Runyan may say: "The only reason they're making a big deal about the Unification Church is because it's the Unification Church. They don't mind any other religions investing money, and making fortunes. But they're scared of us. We've been through civil rights, and the blacks--and now they find new groups. Religious persecution has been going on since the beginning of the country...before...and many times in Gloucester. Strangely enough, people come here to escape it."
And Moon said in 1974: "The world is really our stage. We are going to be the ones who restore and bring hope to every corner of the world. The money is there, and I will earn the money. I will reap the harvest. And you will become soldiers, trained soldiers."
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