The Unification Church, whose members are disciples of Korean evangelist Sun Myung Moon, filed suit against the City of Alexandria yesterday challenging the constitutionality of the city's charitable solicitation law.
The suit, filed for the church by the American Civil Liberties Union in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, claims that the city ordinance violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because the city manager decides who can get a solicitation permit without adopting a set of standards as required by a Supreme Court decision.
The church also claims that its religious freedom is abridged by the law and that it improperly requires the disclosure of financial and other information before a permit can be issued, according to Leonard Rubenstein, an attorney representing the church.
The ACLU said in a statement that last May five Unification Church members were arrested for unlawful solicitation in Alexandria. One was convicted of misdemeanor, charges against two others were dropped and the other two forfeited collateral and didn't appear in court, Rubenstein said.
The church has peacefully conducted fund-raising in the city since early 1973, an ACLU statement said, but the city has consistently denied recent church requests for soliciation permits.
The Moon followers sell flowers, peanuts and candy to raise money for the church and lecture and conduct choirs and other programs as part of their evangelical effort. Atempts last summer by some church members to organize recreational activities for children throughout the Washington area met opposition from parents, some of whom argued that their children might be brainwashed by some church members.