Updated 09/03/2012 11:12 AM
Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Controversial Church Leader, Dies
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The controversial head of the Unification Church, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, has died at age 92.
He died at a church-owned hospital near his home outside of Seoul, South Korea after being admitted for pneumonia.
Moon became famous for his mass weddings, matching up thousands of followers, who became known as "Moonies," around the world.
He once conducted the marriage ceremonies of thousands of his followers at the same time at Madison Square Garden in 1982. Moon called the ceremonies "miracles," where couples dedicated their lives to one another and to God.
Critics dubbed him a cult leader, accusing him of using devious recruitment tactics and duping followers out of money.
"Religious symbols are used to ensnare and trap the innocent and the unwary and the young,” said author Allen Woods, who joined the Unification Church in the late 1960s, less than 20 years after its founding in South Korea.
Before Woods became disenchanted with Moon, he says he was the chief political officer for the church in supporting President Richard Nixon.
"I was also the co-chairman of The American Youth For A Just Peace, which was a Moon front organization which was used to support the Nixon administration and its war efforts in Vietnam," Woods said.
According to an article posted on the Unification Church’s website, “Rev. Moon supported anti-Communist causes during the Cold War, promoted international and interfaith peace activities and strongly advocated a pro-marriage, pro-family culture.”
Moon developed a good relationship with Presidents Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
In the early 1980s, Moon served time in federal prison for income tax evasion but built a global business empire. It includes commercial fishing and a distribution arm that supplies sushi to restaurants across the country.
The church invested $60 million in the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and its holdings also include the New Yorker Hotel in Midtown.
The president of the Washington Times, a publication founded by Moon, is quoted as saying the "Rev. Sun Myung Moon has long loved America, and he believed in the need for a powerful free press."
Church officials say Moon is survived by his wife and 11 children.