"I will conquer and subjugate the world," says Sun Myung Moon. "I am your brain." The latter statement is quite literally true for a growing coterie of young American converts, who regard the South Korean cult leader (TIME, Sept. 30, 1974) as the second Christ. Asking no questions, they obediently hawk candy and flowers, raising millions to spread the faith. They exist on a shoestring, while Moon, 55, lives in lordly fashion in a 25-room mansion in New York's Westchester County.
His Unification Church's national budget alone is $11 million, not counting the expenses of 120 local branches and affiliates. The cult grows steadily and currently claims 30,000 members, 7,000 of whom live in Moon communities. All believe that a "Lord of the Second Advent" (Moon, though this is not stated publicly) will redeem mankind physically by fathering a perfect family. A blend of Christian terminology, occultism and dualism is taught in Moon's scripture, The Divine Principle.
Flared Up. While Moon's converts are unquestioning, others are not. In recent months, many Moon disputes have flared up. The Unification Church is in court to regain a tax exemption for an estate in the town of Greenburgh, N.Y., where it has purchased $9 million worth of properties since 1972. In New York City the church, which regards itself as a Christian sect, is suing for the right to join the local council of churches after becoming the first applicant ever rejected by the council. With criticism of
Moon growing, Buckminster Fuller, Norman Cousins and others have withdrawn as advisers for a meeting of eminent world scholars Nov. 27-30 in Manhattan, organized by a Moon front.
The growing opposition to the Moon cult focuses primarily on worries about what it is doing to the minds of its young converts. In Dutchess County, N.Y., District Attorney Albert Rosenblatt is investigating complaints from parents that their children have been "brainwashed" in high-pressure courses at the church's Barrytown training center. Rosenblatt also wonders why so many Moon cultists require emergency-room treatment at a local hospital.
Around the country, hundreds of parents have been driven to near hysteria by changes in their convert children's behavior and by reports of brainwashing. They are filing suits and banding into anti-Moon groups. Some parents have even resorted to abduction. In many cases they use "Deprogrammer" Ted Patrick, who for a fee conducts counter brain washing of cultists.
One typical worried parent is New Jersey's state insurance commissioner James Sheeran, three of whose daughtersVicki, 25, Jaime, 24, and Josette, 21are Moon converts. He wants laws to protect people from "cruel and exotic entrapment of their minds, souls and bodies." Late one night last August, Sheeran decided to act when Josette, normally compassionate, showed little interest upon learning that her grandmother was in the hospital. He, his wife and a son drove to Moon's school to seek Josette. Fifteen Moon men materialized, a scuffle ensued, and state police arrived amid mutual charges of assault.