Why : Public Opinion and the Tax Evasion Trial of Reverend Moon by James T. Richardson, J.D, Ph.D.

Public Opinion and the Tax Evasion Trial of Reverend Moon
James T. Richardson, J.D, Ph.D.
This paper presents the results of a survey of a random sample of 1,000 people taken from the Southern Judicial District of New York to measure the amount of knowledge about and bias toward the Reverend Moon prior to his trial on tax evasion charges. 

The survey was completed as part of the pretrial preparation by Reverend Moon, and was used to support his motion for a bench trial, instead of having the case tried before a jury. 


The survey revealed very high levels of knowledge about the Church and Reverend Moon, as well as a strong negative bias toward both. Implications of these results and the outcome of the actual trial for the jury system and for religion and religionists is discussed.

The 1982 tax evasion case against Reverend Moon, Spiritual leader of the Unification Church (UC), was a significant event in the history of new religious movements in America.

The case, which ended only after fruitless, bu much-publicized appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, attracted considerable attention from media, scholarly, scientific and legal communities, religionist, and others.

The case became a major issuing in church-state relations, with religious leaders and groups of many persuasions supporting Reverend Moon in his efforts to avoid charges brought by the government against him (Scairrion, 1984; Richardson, 1984; Sherwood, 1991).

The charges stemmed from the placing of some UC assets-a bank account and some stock-in the name of Reverend Moon.  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) chose to view income earned from these sources as personal income from Reverend Moon, income which he failed to report on his tax returns.

The amount of back taxes allegedly owed by Reverend Moon was less than $8,000. (Sherwood, 1991,p.viii) but this did not deter the matter from becoming one of the most publicized cases involving a religious figure or group in recent U.S. history.[1]


Reverend Moon and a subordinate who was allegedly involved in the scheme were charged with tax evasion and related offenses, and brought to trial in federal court of the Southern District of New York State.  He and his subordinate were found guilty in a trial at the district court level and Moon was sentenced to 18 month prison term, along with $25,000 fin plus court costs.

His subordinate was sentenced to 6 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.  There after the case was appealed to a Second Circuit Court of Appeals, where the appeal was lost by a two (2) to one (1) margin.

They (UC) then appealed to the United States Supreme Court for review, in a case which attracted 16 amicus briefs sponsored by forty (40) different organizations claiming to represent some 125 million members, along with some briefs filed by individuals (Sciarrino, 1984; Richardson, 1984).

The Supreme Court refused to review the conviction, and Reverend Moon and his subordinate served their sentence in federal prison.
The case gained public notoriety and media attention because of who Reverend Moon was-leader of a controversial new religion (often referred to as a “cult” in media treatments).

The case gained attention of religionist because of the way in which assets were handled by Reverend Moon and his associates seemed similar to how assets of many religious groups are held-in the name of the group leader (Sciarrino, 1984).

Legal scholars were intrigued by the case because of its implications for church-state relations, as well  as a concern about the requirement that the case be tried before a jury (Sciarrno, 1984).

Indeed, one of America’s most prominent constitutional scholars, Laurence Tribe of Harvard University Law School, agreed to write the unsuccessful appeal briefs to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and petition for certlroari submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Reverend Moon.

A multiplicity of interesting legal and political issues were raised by the Moon case.  One of the most interesting developments was formation of major coalition of religious groups of many persuasions, as well as other organization, to support Reverend Moon in his battle with the IRS.  Leaders of these organizations were persuaded that IRS tactics used against Reverend Moon and the UC could also be easily used against other groups.

The spectacle of entries as diverse as the Mormon Church, the National Council of Churches, The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the  National Council of Black Mayors, the states of Hawaii, Oregon,  and Rhode Island, Institute for the Study of American Religion, the Center for Judicial Studies, and the National Association of Evangelicals joining forces with individuals amici such as Eugene McCarthy, Clare Booth Luce, and Senator Orrin Hatch was fascinating to behold (see Richard, 1984; Sherwood,1991).


While it would be interesting to pursue some of these broader issues, the focus of this paper is more narrow.  I want to present some data gathered during this case which offers an interesting view of how citizens of that time and place were thinking of Reverend Moon and what he represented.

The data set has considerable implication for the fairness of jury trials of controversial figures, and for the constitutional right to a fair trial.  These valuable data have been made available to me by the Unification,  for which I am grateful.

JURY RESEARCH FOR THE TRIAL OF REVEREND MOON

In preparation for the trial of Reverend Moon, the Unification Church sponsored a significant piece of research to assist them in developing strategy.

They retained a public opinion and marketing firm to do research on characteristics of potential jurors in the Southern District of New York.  Thus, in this important case, the UC decided to engage in “scientific juror selection.”

This approach was not new-scientific jury selection was developed during the 1960 (Berrigan Brothers, Joan Little, Angela Davis, and others), and has since been used in many major civil cases (Hans & Vidmar, 1986).

The fact that the Church took this step is an indication of how seriously they viewed the case against Reverend Moon.

The survey was plainly commissioned for the use in jury selection, a practice that has become common in the last two decades.

 Indeed the UC admitted as much in an affidavit from the supervisor of the research, Stephen Roth, who stated the survey was conducted:
…with the objective of determining what personal and socio-economic characteristics tended to identify potential jurors who would bring to the courtroom an open mind about the guilt or innocence of Sun Myung Moon.  In short, the purpose of this survey was to determine who would make unbiased jurors in this case (Roth, 1982).

Such research is often used-indeed is almost essential-for supporting a change of venue motion (Mohahan & Walker, 1990).  

However, no such motion was made in this case, perhaps because of the belief  by UC leaders that the notoriety of Reverend Moon and the UC was also wide-spread outside the Southern District of New York (see Sherwood, 1991).  The Government criticized the UC for not seeking a change of venue, stating that remedy should have been attempted, instead of asking for a “non-jury trial”, which was the tactic eventually chosen by the UC attorneys.


UC leaders had every reason to be worried about a jury trial for Reverend Moon.  Public opinion seemed to be running strongly against them, as demonstrated by submission to the court of information from the survey reported herein, as well as many media treatments of the group and the case, as part of the official record of proceedings (Stilllman, 1982). 

The public, constantly besieged by media treatments depicting “cults” as evil groups, using brainwashing mind control to gain members, seemed unsympathetic toward the UC and its leaders, especially at that time (Van Driel & Richardson, 1986).   


Finding good public opinion for the exact time period of the case is difficult, but data gathered since shows that feelings are strongly negative about new religious groups such as the UC (Bromley & Breschel, this issue; Larkin, 1986).


For instance, a recent national Gallup Poll reported that animus toward cults and new religions was extremely high, surpassing that directed toward traditional enemies such as the Russians, and easily over-shadowing that shown toward racial groups in our society(see, e.g., Gallup, 1989).  

This Gallup survey of 1,000 adults revealed that 62% said they would not like to have religious sects or cults as neighbors.  

This figure was twice as high as the next most disliked category (religious fundamentalist, at 30%) and four or five time as high as the figures for such categories as Blacks, Koreans, Hispanics, Russians, and Vietnamese.  

Data such as these (if representative of the situation earlier in the 1980s in New York) support concern of UC officials about the possibility of receiving a fair trial for any group thought as cult, as was the UC.

METHOD

Because of the perception of strong negative feelings about the UC and it leader(…….)relevant to jury selection and trial strategy.  The survey commissioned by the UC called for 1,000 interviews of a carefully drawn random sample of people in the Southern District of New York.   The Southern District includes maily Manhattan, the Bronx, and Westchester, and area with about 40% Catholic, 25% Protestant, and 12% Jewish residents.  The survey instrument was developed by skilled professionals wh know how to conduct good research.[2] The instrument opened with a thorough set of screening questions designed to disallow those ineligible for jury service.[3]  It also included a carefully crafted substantive section to tap peoples feeling about the UC and Reverend Moon, as well as related matters.  The survey ended with a standard set of demographic question to allow better analysis of the data.  Careful records were kept on all aspects of the survey, in order to gain valid information and to be able to defend the survey in court, if necessary (Roth, 1982).

RESULTS

Results of the pretrial research revealed deep seated levels of animus toward the UC and Reverend Moon.  The strong animosity was demonstrated in every area of the substantive portion of the survey.  For instance, respondents were asked to give an opinion of 23 groups and individuals named by the interviewer, using standard Likert scale response categories from “very favorable” to “very unfavorable.”          The results are presented in Table 1.

Out of the 23 items several could be viewed as having meaning in terms of the up-coming trial. “The Reverend Moon”, “The Unification Church, ““Sun Myung Moon”, and “Moonies” were obvious references, but other terms like “Orientals” “Koreans”, “people who live in communes”, and “foreigners” also were germane.  The methodology allowed interesting comparisons with feelings about groups such as “Evangelists”, “Roman Catholics Church”, and “Buddhists”, as well as with individuals such as “The Reverend Jim Jones”, “Pope John Paul”, and “Graham”.

Table 1. Rating of groups and / or individuals initial respondents: 1000.


Very favorable
Somewhat favorable
Neutral
Somewhat unfavorable
Very unfavorable
Don’t Know

%
%
%
%
%
%
Jehovah’s witness
7.0
17.8
46.3
15.6
11.0
2.4
Foreigners
22.3
28.2
43.0
2.7
1.1
2.5
People who live in communes
5.5
17.8
47.7
12.1
11.0
5.8
Missionaries
37.8
24.6
25.7
5.7
4.2
1.9
Japanese
27.3
29.5
37.3
2.5
1.5
1.6
The Moral Majority
7.1
16.7
27.2
11.6
28.4
9.0
The Reverend Moon
1.2
2.2
15.8
17.7
58.7
9.0
Billy Graham
21.3
22.6
34.0
11.0
8.7
1.7
Roman Catholic Church
36.4
25.9
28.2
6.0
2.6
1.0
Religious Converts
13.9
21.4
49.7
4.7
4.1
6.1
The Unification Church
2.2
7.3
29.6
16.3
35.5
9.0
Evangelists
10.0
18.3
42.0
15.5
8.5
5.7
Born Again Christians
15.9
20.2
39.0
12.6
7.6
4.7
Koreans
12.8
26.6
53.4
3.5
1.8
1.9
Jews for Jesus
12.1
17.0
41.2
7.4
10.3
12.1
Sun Myung Moon
0.8
3.5
18.7
16.3
54.1
6.6
The Reverend Jim Jones
1.1
1.9
10.6
9.2
69.8
7.3
Orientals
25.5
26.7
42.3
2.2
1.5
1.7
Pope John Paul
59.0
20.9
15.5
2.2
1.7
0.7
Moonies
2.1
2.9
19.9
17.1
50.2
7.9
Chinese
26.0
27.5
42.1
1.5
1.2
1.6
Buddhists
13.3
21.5
47.8
4.9
6.2
6.2
The Hare Krishnas
1.6
8.4
35.5
20.7
18.5
15.3

The comparisons reveal that the UC and Reverend Moon fare quit poorly.

Only 3% to 4% were favorable toward Moon, similar figures to those obtained for Jim Jones, was disliked only slightly more.

Comparing these figures to those obtained for Pope John Paul (71% favorable) and Billy Graham (44% favorable) reveals a stark contrast.

Perhaps the UC and Reverend Moon can take some solace in the fact that 125 years ago in America, anti-Catholic sentiment was so strong that riots and arson resulted, whereas today Pope Paul is loved by nearly everyone, at least in the Southern District of New York.

The Catholic Church is also viewed positively (63%), compared to a mere 10% favorable figures for the UC and only 5% in the term “Moonies”.

Other group’s favorable figures were: Jehovah’s Witnesses (25%), The Moral Majority (24%), Evangelist s (28% favorable), Born Again Christians (36% favorable), Jews for Jesus (29% favorable), Chinese (54% favorable), and Buddhists (35% favorable).  The Hare Krishna, with their legacy of harassing passengers at airports and media treatment similar to the UC, registered 10% favorable responses.

It is also instructive to examine the “Very Unfavorable” category in Table 1 to measure strength of negative feelings.

Out of the list of 23 groups and individuals, only four (4) registered over half (1/2) “Very Unfavorable” responses.

From Table 1.

Table 1. Rating of groups and / or individuals initial respondents: 1000.



Very favorable
Somewhat favorable
Neutral
Somewhat unfavorable
Very unfavorable
Don’t Know

%
%
%
%
%
%
The Reverend Jim Jones[4]
1.1
1.9
10.6
9.2
69.8
7.3
The Reverend Moon
1.2
2.2
15.8
17.7
58.7
9.0
Sun Myung Moon
0.8
3.5
18.7
16.3
54.1
6.6
Moonies
2.1
2.9
19.9
17.1
50.2
7.9
[5] [6] [7] [8]


From my perspective data in Table 1 indicates that the animus against Reverend Moon was strong, suggesting that obtaining an impartial jury in the Southern District was questionable.

Next in the survey came a series of 28 statements designed to measure respondent agreement with important issues and perspectives about new religions (including UC and its leaders), religion in general, specific foreigner groups, government motives in bringing tax cases, and related matters.  Included in the list (Table 2) were a number of myths and allegations against religion and religious groups designed to reveal much of the respondent’s ability to keep an open mind about issues raised by the case.

Three of the 28 items in Table 2 refer directly to the UC or Reverend Moon by name.  These items are #16, #19 and #28, while most others mention behavior or idea relevant to activities or positions allegedly of the UC or its leaders.  On a number of items the response pattern is on that the religionists might find encouraging.


Table 2. Do you agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, or disagree strongly with:



Agree Strongly
Agree Somewhat
Disagree Somewhat
Disagree Strongly
Do Not Know


%
%
%
%
%
1.
The “return to religion” movement in this country is dangerous if not stopped it will destroy our freedom
11
12
32
41
4
2.
Missionaries spread religion in a horrible way
26
46
16
6
6
3.
Orientals who come to this country always try to avoid playing by our rules
4
10
32
46
8
4.
Churches were never intended to take a strong political stand, they should be for religious worship only
42
22
19
16
2
5.
Brainwashing is required to make someone change from organized religion to a cult
22
21
20
30
7
6.
Young kids who join religious cults are all sick
10
12
38
36
4
7.
All these new churches and religions are nothing more than tax dodgers for the leaders
17
27
31
17
7
8.
Unconventional religions go after rich people for their money
11
23
36
20
10
9.
All Orientals tend to be sneaky
3
4
20
67
4
10.
People who live in communes are weak and try to escape from the real world
12
20
35
25
7
11.
The government should never prosecute religious figures unless violence is involved
19
18
27
31
4
12.
It’s a known fact that the government brings tax fraud cases as last ditch efforts to get people it thinks are criminals and undesirables
13
32
27
16
12
13.
The only “real” religions are those that have been around for centuries
18
13
32
33
4
14.
People who start “holy” crusades are only in it to make money
11
20
40
23
5
15.
The Catholic Church should not be allowed to make political stands
21
23
27
25
4
16.
The “Brainwashing” that the Moonies do is the same as the Catholic Church and other religions
4
11
23
55
7
17.
Fund raising is important to all religions but only the shady ones send out members individually to collect money
10
17
34
32
6
18.
Billy Graham is a minister who just used religion to make a fortune
8
19
34
32
8
19.
The Unification Church is based on cult rituals and no the teaching of Christianity or any other acceptable organized religion
18
21
24
9
27
20.
Orientals have strange religions that they have try to force upon us
4
4
27
58
6
21.
The Moral Majority’s political activities are for the good of the American Way
9
21
22
39
9
22.
When the Government prosecutes someone for tax evasion, the person is always guilty
7
11
29
48
4
23.
When a minister or reverend becomes rich this is something wrong going on
20
27
29
18
5
24.
The Oriental religions are al based on drugs and brain-washing
4
3
24
62
8
25.
I hate all organized religions
2
6
20
70
3
26.
Respectable religions do not use church funds for business ventures or investments
17
16
32
30
6
27.
The Government should not give any new religions tax-free status
18
19
32
24
6
28.
If I had the chance, I’d throw Reverend Moon in Jail






Table 2. Do you agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, or disagree strongly with:

For instance, 73% disagree with Item 1, about the “return to religion being dangerous”, and 71%  agree with Item 2 ”missionaries spread religion in an horrible way”.


Agree Strongly
Agree Somewhat
Disagree Somewhat
Disagree Strongly
Do Not Know


%
%
%
%
%
1.
The “return to religion” movement in this country is dangerous if not stopped it will destroy our freedom
11
12
32
41
4
2.
Missionaries spread religion in a horrible way
26
46
16
6
6

Seventy-five percent (75%) disagree with item 6. “young kids who join religious cults are sick”, and 55% disagree that “unconventional religions go after the rich for their money” (Item 8). 


Agree Strongly
Agree Somewhat
Disagree Somewhat
Disagree Strongly
Do Not Know


%
%
%
%
%
6.
Young kids who join religious cults are all sick
10
12
38
36
4
8.
Unconventional religions go after rich people for their money
11
23
36
20
10

Sixty-five (65%) disagree that “the only real religions are those that have been around for centuries” (Item 13), and 66% disagree that “only shady religions would send out individuals to collect money”  (Item 17).


Agree Strongly
Agree Somewhat
Disagree Somewhat
Disagree Strongly
Do Not Know


%
%
%
%
%
13.
The only “real” religions are those that have been around for centuries
18
13
32
33
4
17.
Fund raising is important to all religions but only the shady ones send out members individually to collect money
10
17
34
32
6

Similar apparently pro-religion response patterns were found within Items 14, 18, 24, 25, 26, and 27.


Agree Strongly
Agree Somewhat
Disagree Somewhat
Disagree Strongly
Do Not Know


%
%
%
%
%
14.
People who start “holy” crusades are only in it to make money
11
20
40
23
5
18.
Billy Graham is a minister who just used religion to make a fortune
8
19
34
32
8
24.
The Oriental religions are al based on drugs and brain-washing
4
3
24
62
8
25.
I hate all organized religions
2
6
20
70
3
26.
Respectable religions do not use church funds for business ventures or investments
17
16
32
30
6
27.
The Government should not give any new religions tax-free status
18
19
32
24
6

Further solace for the more pro-religionist might be found in the items talking about racial or ethnic groups.

Anti-oriental items (Items 3, 9, 20, 24) were soundly rejected by respondents.

Table 2. Do you agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, or disagree strongly with:

3.
Orientals who come to this country always try to avoid playing by our rules
4
10
32
46
8
9.
All Orientals tend to be sneaky
3
4
20
67
4
20.
Orientals have strange religions that they have try to force upon us
4
4
27
58
6
24.
The Oriental religions are al based on drugs and brain-washing
4
3
24
62
8

On the issue of government tactics and practices relating to tax matters, respondents showed a definite anti –government bias. Seventy-seven percent (77%) disagree that government prosecution for tax evasion always “means the person is always guilty” (item 22.) and 56% disagree that “the governments should not give any new religion tax-free status”” )Item 27)  Also, Item 10, about “people in communes being weak and trying to escape from the world” was disagreed with by 60%.
10.
People who live in communes are weak and try to escape from the real world
12
20
35
25
7
22.
When the Government prosecutes someone for tax evasion, the person is always guilty
7
11
29
48
4
27.
The Government should not give any new religions tax-free status
18
19
32
24
6

The initial impression from examining some of these items does not prevail throughout the list, however, Item 4. , about “churches not being intended to take political stands” was agreed with by 64%, although Item 15, about the Catholic Church being allowed to take political stands” found 44% agreement.  Item 5 about “brainwashing being required to make someone change from organized religion to a cult” was agreed to by 43%.  Forty-four percent (44%) agreed that “new religions are nothing but tax dodges” (Item 7); 78% disagreed that the “brainwashing of the Moonies is the same as the Catholic Church” (Item 16); 39% agreed that “the UC is based on cult rituals and not Christianity or another acceptable religion” (Item 19)

4.
Churches were never intended to take a strong political stand, they should be for religious worship only
42
22
19
16
2
5.
Brainwashing is required to make someone change from organized religion to a cult
22
21
20
30
7
7.
All these new churches and religions are nothing more than tax dodgers for the leaders
17
27
31
17
7
15.
The Catholic Church should not be allowed to make political stands
21
23
27
25
4
16.
The “Brainwashing” that the Moonies do is the same as the Catholic Church and other religions
4
11
23
55
7
19.
The Unification Church is based on cult rituals and no the teaching of Christianity or any other acceptable organized religion
18
21
24
9
27

Perhaps most disturbing was the agreement by 43% with the statement, “If I had the chance, I’d throw Reverend Moon in jail.”

Thus, it appears that religion is all right, as long as it is conventional, which in the Southern District of New York, certainly includes the Catholic Church. 

When religions, particularly new or “cultic” ones, are viewed practicing “brainwashing” or getting involved in business or politics, strong negative opinions emerge.  The on behaviorally-oriented personal statement out of the list of 28 dealt with throwing Reverend Moon in jail. (Item 28)  
Forty-three percent (43%) felt they knew enough to warrant doing just that, even before the trial had been held.

Demographic analysis of Table 2 revealed a somewhat different pattern to that of found with the list of evaluated groups and individuals in Table 1.  Those most negative about UC, its leaders and perceived activities, most supportive of government positions, tended to older, less well educated, and with lower incomes.  

On Item 28, (“throw Moon in jail”), demographic categories with higher scores were those with high school or less education, Jews, Catholics, and somewhat surprisingly (given other results) , those under 30. [9]

DISCUSSION

Historically, the jury has served a role as a bulwark against government oppression…Juries hens forth were expected to follow the law strictly especially when that law was promulgated by an oppressive government… The data reported in this paper and what happened in the Moon tax evasion trial may be disquieting to those who believe that the jury in America protects citizens from government oppression and prejudice….
…There is some dipute about whether they can, with total impunity, excersie that demand, but the trial judge, even though expressing strong reservations , felt compelled to agree.  His dicision was upheld on appeal, in spite of strong argumets being made a constitutional lawyer Laurence Tribe to the contrary….[10]





[1] Inquisition is a 1991 book by Carlton Sherwood about the early 1980s investigation and trial of Rev. Sun Myung Moon
[2] The research was conducted by Litigations Services Group, a firm located in New York, with Stephen Roth as Managing Director.  Roth’s affidavit (1982) gives careful detail about all aspects of the research, procedures, including a copy of the research instrument.
[3] Screening question involved such matters as whether the person is registered to vote, age, occupation (some occupations are exempted from jury service in New York), and whether they would be unable to serve for reasons of health, self-employment or having to care for a dependent.
[4]Jim Jones had just killed his followers in Guyana in 1978 and this survey was conducted several years after
[5] Note that the Hare Krishna obtained only 18% very favorable, while the Moral Majority had 28% in that category
[6] Looking at the data set in terms of what demographic categories were least positive about the UC and its leaders reveals a problematic pattern.  When evaluating Reverend Moon, Jews had the lowest average favorable rating, followed by those with higher incomes, a pattern similar to that of evaluations of the terms Unification Church, Sun Myung Moon, and Moonies.
[7] When evaluating Reverend Moon, Jews had the lowest average favorable rating, followed by those with higher incomes, a pattern similar to that of evaluations of the terms Unification Church, Sun Myung Moon, and Moonies.
[8] Respondents 60 years of age and over also had comparatively low ratings of favorableness of this group of terms.  Thus,  it appears that some individuals perhaps more prone to get on juries and to assume a leadership role on them, were less favorably disposed toward the UC, and it leaders (Saks & Hastle, 1978; Hans & Vid Mar, 1986)
[9] This writer did not see any of these data sets such as age, ethnicity, or income
[10] You know this better than anyone