An expense-paid winter vacation for students in Florida, sponsored by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, ended on a note of controversy recently after five guests left the camp with sheriff deputies.
By the end of the six-day seminar at a YMCA camp near here, five more guests had left or were asked to leave -- some complaining that they were subjected to long lectures on Moon's Divine Principles and were followed by his supporters.
Officials of the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP), the Unification Church campus affiliate that sponsored the Florida seminar, denied any charges of wrongdoing. Michael Smith, CARP director for the eastern U.S., said there was evidence that former church members and others hostile to the church tried to disrupt the Florida trip and infiltrate the camp to stir up trouble.
Eight patrol cars converged on the camp on the first day of the workshop, following a complaint by a Massachusetts woman that her daughter had been lured to the camp by church members and was being kept against her will.
The girl, 19-year-old Debbie Block, a student from Northeastern University in Boston, first told officers that she wanted to stay at the camp, then changed her mind and left with the deputies, along with four others. Back in Boston, she said the church members seemed "friendly and nice. I just didn't realize what I was getting into."
CARP members at the 40 U.S. colleges where the group has chapters recruited members for the seminar. It was described in a flier as a "leadership for a new age student seminar" and promised "sun, fun, people, excitement, sports, inspiration. . . ." It included an endorsement from a Columbia University student who is a member of CARP. The program included lectures and discussions on Moon's Divine Principles and other topics.
The Florida workshop aroused some attention in December when the CARP recruitment drive was publicized. CARP representatives were found to be giving out conflicting details about the purpose of the trip. The exact site of the workshop wasn't given out until a week before the meeting and its dates also were changed.
YMCA camp officials tried to have the workshop removed from their facilities contending that CARP failed to identify itself as a Unification Church affiliate. Smith agreed that CARP should have clearly identified itself and said it would do so in the future.
Smith said that despite the interruptions, the workshop progressed satisfactorily and others like it would be scheduled by CARP.
The Florida workshop originally was expected to draw 1,000 college students but CARP representatives scaled down that estimate to 600 in mid-December. About 260 actually attended the workshop, about 150 as guests, the rest as CARP workshop leaders. A similar workshop was held simultaneously in California for members on the West coast, at the workshops were given free room and board and transportation. All they had to bring was a sleeping bag and personal items, and pay a $20 seminar fee.