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In November 1973, Rev. Moon had taken out newspaper ads urging Americans to “forgive, love and unite” in the face of the crisis created by the Watergate scandal. That led to a Feb. 1, 1974, Oval Office meeting between President Richard M. Nixon and Rev. Moon.

‘Brainwashing’ charges

After Rev. Moon associated himself with Nixon, his religious movement began to be regarded as politically controversial. Critics began charging the Unification Church with “brainwashing” its members.

“Liberals in America, especially those who sympathized with international communism, felt particularly threatened by Rev. Moon’s appearance on the national scene,” Mr. Pak later wrote. “They feared that Rev. Moon could become a major threat, and so they came together to form an anti-Rev. Moon movement.”

During the 1970s, the Unification Church in America attracted many young adults. These converts often lived communally, witnessing, lecturing or raising money for the church’s projects. This attracted the attention of established religious organizations. Some parents of new members complained that the church prohibited contact between young converts and their families. In some cases, parents arranged to have young people abducted from Unification training centers and “deprogrammed.”

“I have never divided families or broken homes,” and the accusations of brainwashing are “nonsense,” Rev. Moon told theologian Frederick Sontag in a 1977 book about the church.

In 1977, a House subcommittee on international organizations began investigating the Unification Church. Rep. Donald Fraser, Minnesota Democrat, charged that the church was a lobbying organization for the South Korean government.

Although the congressional investigation failed to find any wrongdoing by Rev. Moon or the church, the Internal Revenue Service in 1981 obtained an indictment against Rev. Moon for income-tax evasion. The IRS charged that Rev. Moon failed to declare $112,000 in interest and $50,000 in corporate stock. Rev. Moon’s defense asserted that the assets were not Rev. Moon‘s, but were held in trust for the Japanese Unification Church.

A jury found Rev. Moon guilty of not paying about $7,500 of tax on interest income, and he was sentenced to 18 months in Danbury Federal Correctional Institution, a sentence he began serving in July 1984. With time off for good behavior, he was formally released Aug. 2, 1985, after serving 13 months. More than 2,000 clergymen welcomed Rev. Moon at a banquet in Washington that night.

‘Landslide’ predicted

Even as he faced investigations and imprisonment, Rev. Moon embarked on a new aspect of his public career. He had declared that “only the United States can protect the democratic world against the threat of communism,” and warned that President Jimmy Carter’s “naivete” about that threat would soon lead to “world communization.”

His aide, Mr. Pak, later recalled that Rev. Moon prayed for an American president who would “stop the marching tide of communism,” and that Rev. Moon one day told him: “The next president of the United States will hold the fate of the world in his hands, and Heaven has chosen Ronald Reagan.”

Unification Church members actively supported the Reagan campaign in 1980 and, at Rev. Moon’s direction, Mr. Pak arranged a meeting with Reagan in Toledo, Ohio. Greeting the candidate as “President Reagan,” Mr. Pak recalled, he told the Republican challenger: “God has already decided on you as the next president.”

Reagan, according to Mr. Pak, was “taken aback” by the statement and asked him: “What did you say? Who on earth told you that?”

After he explained Rev. Moon’s prophecy, Mr. Pak said, Reagan responded with his characteristic humor: “I wish I had as much confidence in myself as Rev. Moon does.”

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